In the face of growing complaints about the stench coming from the Sunshine Canyon Landfill in Sylmar, the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to investigate what more can be done.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich recommended “aggressive action,” telling his colleagues that despite “trying to mitigate these odors for years,” the smells from garbage and landfill gas are “now getting worse.”
Negotiations with Republic Services Inc. which owns and operates the landfill and more than 300 others across the country, have stalled, according to Antonovich. He also accused the company of ignoring efforts by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to set up hearings.
Company representatives told the board the landfill is in full compliance with its permits and has spent $27 million since 2009 on improvements to the landfill gas system, installing state-of-the-art technology.
There is “a great deal of science and engineering” behind running a landfill, said Dave Hauser, market vice president for Republic Services.
An earlier order to cover the dump with nine inches of soil to better control the smell has proved to be a damaging step, Hauser told the board.
Residents who live within a mile or so of the facility said they were fed up with the landfill and its management.
“It has rained dirt, trash and odors down upon us,” adding 2.3 million tons of trash per year, said Wayde Hunter of the North Valley Coalition of Concerned Citizens Inc.
The number of complaints have increased by more than 50 percent since 2013 to nearly 1,800 last year, according to data provided by Antonovich.
Hauser said 70 percent of the complaints were coming from just 20 addresses and a “significant portion” of those residents are involved in a pending lawsuit against the landfill, suggesting a profit motive.
A longtime resident pushed back against that characterization.
“I smell garbage in the morning and landfill gas at night,” Andrea Denise Provenzale told the board. “I did not sign up for this. All I did was buy a house … we have been treated like a bunch of money-grubbing hypochondriacs.”
Republic Services has set up “odor patrols” that circle surrounding neighborhoods from 6-10 a.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight, according to General Manager Robert Sherman.
Sherman said he joined the patrol around a nearby school for a year.
“Odors are not very common and when they are detected, they are faint and fleeting,” Sherman said, adding that the company was committed to doing what it takes to fix the problem and “being a good neighbor.”
“It’s not the money spent, but the results,” said Meg Volk, who bought her house in June 1991 when the landfill was closed and she was told that there were plans to turn it into a nature preserve.
“The technology does exist” to eliminate 95 percent of odors, she added.
County staff were instructed to update the board, with a report including enforcement options expected in two weeks.
“This is a serious attempt to sort through what has been a bit of finger-pointing, by everyone,” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said.
—City News Service