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The Chiquita Canyon Landfill Crisis

Chiquita Canyon Landfill from a bird's eye view.
Chiquita Canyon Landfill

Without a clean and healthy environment, economic and social development cannot be sustained.”-UNDP, 2022[1]

Chiquita Canyon, a 639-acre landfill, is approximately one-hour northwest of Los Angeles, California (Chiquita Canyon Company Website).[2] The landfill is west of Six Flags Magic Mountain and north of the Santa Clara River. Castaic, Val Verde, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Hasley Canyon, and Valencia are between two and seven miles away from the landfill. Val Verde is the closest (2.7 miles), and Valencia is the farthest (7.4 miles).[3] The company is located off Route 126 (Henry Mayo Dr.), which is west of Route 5. Waste Connections operates Chiquita Canyon, which was established in 1972. The landfill claims it only collects non-hazardous solid waste from municipalities, residential, and commercial zones.[4] Chiquita Canyon also processes clean-fill soil and construction/demolition debris.[5]

Bacteria break down waste, producing gases such as ammonia, sulfides, methane, and carbon dioxide in landfills. [6] The amount is influenced by oxygen content, moisture amount, and temperature. Elevated temperatures and moisture produce more gases, which can seep into surrounding houses through doors, ventilation systems, floor drainage systems, basement cracks, sump pump holes, and utility entry points. The gases accumulate in basements, crawlspaces, and utility tunnels.[7]


Table, Health Effects from Oxygen-deficient Environments
Health Effects from Oxygen-deficient Environments

Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide create most of the odors at landfills.[8] Hydrogen Sulfide causes eye, throat, and lung irritation, headaches, sleeping difficulties, chest pain, nasal congestion, and asthma. Methane and Carbon Dioxide overexposure leads to reduced coordination, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and unconsciousness.[9] Gases also cause the flu, cough, and ear pain.[10] Residents with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, respiratory diseases, and heart diseases are more vulnerable to air pollution. Proximity to the landfill and economic status can increase one’s risk.[11]

A table with 3 columns, entitled Common Landfill Gas Components and Their Odor Thresholds
Common Landfill Gas Components and Their Odor Thresholds


California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Solid Waste Management Program, South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD), Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), California's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), and the Environmental Protection Agency are responsible for monitoring Chiquita Canyon and other landfills.[12]

During the spring of 2022, a smoldering reaction event began at the landfill due to elevated temperatures and rainfall.[13] Oxygen became trapped in waste, which led to higher landfill temperatures and the release of dimethyl sulfide (DMS).[14] Issues at the landfill have caused leachate, a toxic liquid, to leak from the landfill and enter nearby air, soil, and water.[15] Leachate contains Benzene, a carcinogen. The affected area is approximately thirty-five acres. In 2022, Chiquita Canyon produced 150,000 gallons of leachate per week. At the end of 2023, the amount had increased to one million gallons per week.[16]

A leachate pool at a landfill in Cancun, Mexico
A leachate pool in Cancun, Mexico

In 2023, officials received 6,800 odor complaints.[17] On September 7, 2023, the South Coast AQMD ordered Chiquita Canyon to examine odor production and reaction expansion. (EPA) During the fall of 2023, Chiquita Canyon did not meet preventative, monitoring, maintenance, and control requirements. Consequently, reaction area conditions deteriorated. (EPA) On November 3, 2023, the United States Environmental Protection Agency investigated Chiquita Canyon alongside other agencies. (EPA) Nineteen days later, The RWQCB sent a violation notice to Chiquita Canyon regarding waste discharge requirements. The EPA and DTSC took samples from the landfill and found elevated levels of benzene on December 12, 2023 (EPA).[18]

A picture of leachate's path from a landfill to crops and a river stream.
How leachate travels underground

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Chiquita Canyon "presents imminent and substantial endangerment to nearby communities".[19] On January 17, 2024, the  South Coast AQMD modified Chiquita Canyon’s Stipulated Abatement Order.[20] During the same month, the agency ordered Chiquita Canyon to prevent the leachate from bubbling and pooling on their property.[21] On Friday, February 23, a malfunctioning hydrogen peroxide hose injured a person and created a hazmat situation (CBS).[22] During February, the EPA and Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board began investigating leachate's impact on stormwater drains and the Santa Clara River. The DTSC also issued five Class-I violations to the LLC.[23]

Chiquita Canyon is accused of breaking Regulations 27 CCR 20921 (Gas Monitoring and Control) and 20750 (Site Maintenance).[24] Regulation CCR 20921 aims to guarantee that landfill gases generated on-site are less than 5% of air volume on a company's property.[25] Regarding the latter regulation, CalRecycle states, "[Chiquita Canyon must start] a preventative maintenance program to [observe and quickly fix inadequate] conditions, [meet] the CIWMB's standards, and [...] complete 4 Mitigation Measures".[26]

The California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) investigated Chiquita Canyon, LLC on December 12, 2023, and published a report. The report states, "Chiquita Canyon, LCC failed to make a proper waste determination on waste leachate. Chiquita Canyon, LLC sent 4,600 gallons of hazardous waste leachate from its landfill at 29201 Henry Mayo Avalon [Premium Tank Cleaning] in […] Gardena, CA on non-hazardous waste manifest #NH004695, for treatment and disposal” .[27]

The DTSC examined Avalon's leachate sample and found the amount over 0.5 mg/L at 0.538 mg/L. Avalon cannot treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste. Chiquita Canyon also failed to submit a hazardous waste manifest for 4,600 gallons of leachate and reduce the probability of dangerous waste releases into the environment.[28] The DTSC noted that the hazardous liquids are a public health and safety threat, and the organization will submit a detailed report in April.[29] Chiquita Canyon has also broken California Health and Safety Code section 25180.7, part of California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65).[30]


According to Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Los Angeles County cannot close the landfill. An agency like the State Water Resources Control Board must discover the quality and quantity of contaminated groundwater (Wainfeld 2024).[31] She said, “We will [review] the petition filed, and we need to remind everyone that the bottom line is the county [needs justification to] close the landfill. Our (legal) counsel has made that very clear to us because the odors did not originate from active portions of the landfill, and since the landfill operator is actively working to abate the odors, closing Chiquita landfill would [not] decreas[e] or eliminat[e] the odors.”[32] Barger was also uncertain whether Chiquita's Canyon closure would be warranted under Los Angeles County's Conditional Use Permit. Citizens For Chiquita Canyon Closure believe that Chiquita Canyon should close because it causes health issues.[33] The South Coast Air Quality Management District received reports of skin irritations, heart palpitations, bloody noses, nausea, and asthma attacks from occupants in Val Verde, Live Oak, Hasley Canyon, and Castaic.[34]

Representative Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita stated that the Environmental Protection Agency’s order is one step closer to resolving the problem. He also ensured that he would use his congressional authority to hold “bad actors” accountable.[35] Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, and a group of California legislators sent an urgent message to the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the State Water Resources Control Board, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. She called for a meeting with the officials in charge of the state agencies working on the problem and planned to be more involved going forward.[36] Senator Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita called Chiquita Canyon a crisis and believes that the EPA will help solve the issue by putting pressure on Waste Connections. However, he claims that the problem will not be fixed quickly (Smith 2024).[37] Los Angeles County Government advises residents to contact doctors, report odors, and use a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) cleaner with a carbon filter for better air quality inside.[38]


[1] United Nations Development Programme ‘The Critical Connection Between Human Rights and Our Natural World’ (10 December 2022) United Nations.

[2] Chiquita Canyon, ‘About’ (2023) Waste Connections.

[3] Google Maps.

[4] Chiquita Canyon (n 2)

[5] Ibid (n 2)

[6] New York State Department of Health, ‘Important Things to Know About Landfill Gas (2010)

[7] New York State Department of Health (n 4)

[8] New York State Department of Health (n 4); Los Angeles County Government ‘Facts About Landfills’ (August 2023)

[9] New York State Department of Health (n 4)

[10] P.O Njoku, J.N Edokpayi,  & J.O Odiyo ‘Health and Environmental Risks of Residents Living Close to a Landfill: A Caste Study of Thohoyandou Landfill, Limpopo Province, South Africa ‘ (2019) International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16 (121), 2125 ; Matthew Rodriguez ‘Malfunctioning Hose Causes Hazmat Situation at Chiquita Canyon Landfill’ (23 February 2024) KCAL News.

[11] Los Angeles County Government (n 6)

[12] Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ‘Chiquita Canyon Landfill, Castaic, CA’ (2024)

[13] Tony Briscoe ‘EPA Says Fire Burning Inside an L.A. County Landfill Poses Imminent Danger, Orders Action’ 23 February 2024. ; Perry Smith ‘County to Review Oversight, Mitigation for Chiquita Canyon (23 February 2024) The Signal

[14] EPA  (n 12); Steve Scauzillo ‘Barger says ‘no’ to Closing Chiquita Canyon Landfill, Lashes out at State Legislators (23 February 2024) Los Angeles Daily News ; Briscoe (n 11)

[15] Briscoe (n 11); Smith (n 11)

[16] EPA (n 12)

[17] Ibid (n 10)

[18] Ibid (n 12)

[19] EPA; Cameron Kizla ‘EPA Joins Chorus of Government Agencies Demanding Action on Chiquita Canyon Landfill’ (22 February 2024) KTLA

[20] EPA (n 12)

[21] Matthew Rodriguez ‘Malfunctioning Hose Causes Hazmat Situation at Chiquita Canyon Landfill (23 February 2024) CBS,

[22] Rodriguez (n 20)

[23] EPA (n 12); Meredith Williams, ‘Summary of Violations’ (2024) Department of Toxic Substances Control.

[24] CalRecyle ‘SWIS Facility/Site Inspection Details Chiquita Canyon Sanitary Landfill’ (17 January 2024)

[25] CalRecycle (n 21)

[26] CalRecycle (n 21)

[27] Williams (n 20); Briscoe (n 11)

[28] Williams (n 20)

[29] Katherine Butler ‘Proposition 65 Notification Pursuant to California Health & Safety Code Section 25180.7 Designated Government Employee Disclosure Requirement (15 February 2024) Department of Toxic Substances Control California Environmental Protection Agency ; City News Service ‘Chiquita Canyon Landfill Ordered to Address Imminent Dangers’ (23 February 2024) Patch

[30] Butler (n 26)

[31] Tyler Wainfeld, ‘Val Verde Residents File Petition to Shut Down Chiquita Canyon Landfill’ (22 February 2024)

[32] Wainfeld (n 28)

[33] Scauzillo (n 12)

[34] Ibid (n 12)

[35] Smith (n 11)

[36] Smith (n 11)

[37] Ibid (n 32)

[38] Los Angeles County Government (n 6); KJT Law Group ‘LA County Landfill Pollution Lawsuit’; McGonigle Law; Downtown LA Law ‘Chiquita Canyon Landfill Class Action Lawsuit’

[39] Tables: Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry 'Chapter 3: Landfill Gas Safety and Health Issues' In 'Landfill Gas Primer-An Overview for Environmental Health Professionals' (n.d.)


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