Dispelling the Landfill Odor Myth

Posted on: 01/05/2017 00:00

(By John Musella) Up until recently, most people didn’t know there was a landfill along Highway 126 near Val Verde.  Chiquita Canyon, a 639-acre landfill, has been in continuous operation for more than 40 years providing the Santa Clarita Valley and surrounding Los Angeles communities with environmentally safe and efficient waste disposal services.

“People always tell us that they didn’t know there was a landfill here,” said Mike Dean with Chiquita Canyon.  “Until we began processing a new permit to continue our operations into the future, we hardly received any calls from neighbors.  No one knew we were here.”

Chiquita management prides itself on being a good neighbor and running a clean, safe waste disposal operation. “The trash that arrives at the landfill smells and it’s our job to dispose of it as quickly as possible, said Dean.  “We have a good record of doing this.” 

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) reports that there has only been one Notice of Violation issued to Chiquita Canyon in nearly 10 years.  Compare that to the 180 Notices of Violation issued to Sunshine Canyon landfill in just the past 8 years.

Last year, in response to a growing public perception regarding odors, Chiquita Canyon on its own initiative, hired a nationally recognized firm specializing in odor analysis, to conduct an independent Odor Survey at Chiquita Canyon. That firm concluded Chiquita does not create significant odor impacts to the surrounding community.

Three trained specialists collected 2,025 sampling data points over a 25-day period in the community surrounding the landfill.  Only 5 of the 2,025 data points (only 0.2%) were potentially associated with landfill odors in the Val Verde community.

These findings support the records of the SCAQMD which has record of only three verified odor complaints in a five-year period between August 2007 and July 2012. No verified odor complaint has ever been associated with landfill gas emissions from Chiquita Canyon. When verified odors have occurred, they appear to be correlated to light winds blowing toward the community of Val Verde, which only occurs approximately six percent of the time.

During the past 14 years, under the current management, Chiquita Canyon Landfill has consistently been proactive in addressing potential odors.  Chiquita focuses on preventing problems before they occur. Many of the proactive control measures put in place at Chiquita Canyon have set the standard for measures at other landfills, including Sunshine Canyon.

Chiquita Canyon can be proactive in addressing issues because its on-site management is empowered by the company to address potential odor problems immediately, in order to stay ahead of the game,” said Dean.  “They have full authority to do whatever is needed when there is a need.”

The landfill’s best management practices for odor control include the following: understanding your site-specific conditions, source control, best operating practices – disposal and landfill gas management.

Understanding the site-specific conditions, a meteorological study was commissioned over a decade ago to understand the site topography and meteorological conditions that create potential pathways for odor movement.

Chiquita Canyon practices best management with source control by refusing to do business with potential customers who generate highly odorous trash. They also reject trucks at the scales when there is an obvious highly odorous load. Lastly, if a highly odorous load passes the scales undetected at the time and is detected while unloading, protocols require that such waste be buried immediately to control odors.

With their disposal practices, the size of the working face expands to accommodate disposal demand peaks but then shrinks when demand subsides to minimize odors. The shrinking is achieved by covering the working face regularly throughout the day as opposed to once at the end of the day. Chiquita Canyon uses soil and other beneficial use material to cover the trash and other areas of the landfill. This is done to proactively minimize odors from fresh trash and to prevent landfill gas from escaping through the soil surface on the landfill.  The use of large portable fans to control the direction of air flow and to dilute odors generated at the tipping area.  Lastly, misting systems are used over a mile-long perimeter to neutralize odors before they can migrate off-site.

The landfill only accepts non-hazardous solid waste for disposal. The solid waste received at the site consists of municipal solid waste, residential and commercial waste, including yard waste, Green Waste (for composting or for recycling), clean fill soil and construction/demolition debris.

The independent report concluded that because of the small detection rate of landfill-related odors off-site, Chiquita Canyon does not create significant odor impacts to the surrounding communities.


John Musella is an SCV resident and public relations executive who has been a community leader for more than 14 years.  He currently leads community outreach efforts for Chiquita Canyon.


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