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What Caused the Problem at the Chiquita Canyon & Sunshine Canyon Landfills?

The two largest landfills in Los Angeles County (Chiquita Canyon and Sunshine Canyon landfills) have been releasing chemicals that cause noxious odors for the past several months. Residents in surrounding areas have complained of headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, eye irritation, fatigue, and other adverse health symptoms.  

If you have been affected by the noxious odors or related health effects, our attorneys can help you explore your legal options to file a landfill pollution lawsuit

What’s Behind the Chaquita Canyon Landfill Odors?

Chemical reactions deep inside the landfill have caused temperatures to climb to over 200 degrees. That’s increased the pressure within the landfill, forcing contaminated water and gas to rise to the surface, according to the Los Angeles Times

The water is bubbling up to the surface and steaming out of fissures as a vapor. Sometimes, “steaming hot liquid bursts into the air like a geyser.”

The contaminated water and gas are causing odors affecting quality of life for nearby residents and, in many cases, causing adverse symptoms. 

But what’s causing the chemical reactions? It may be due to an influx of oxygen into the landfill. The gas wells that release landfill gases like methane may have let in too much oxygen. The oxygen could exacerbate reactions, potentially causing a subsurface fire. 

The landfill’s operators, however, claim there is no fire under the landfill’s surface. 

“The source of any odors coming from the Chiquita Canyon Landfill is an increase in the production of landfill gas (LFG) and liquids at the Landfill,” the Chiquita Canyon website states. “This increase in LFG and liquids production is due to an abnormal biotic or abiotic process (also known as a landfill reaction) taking place within a portion of the Landfill waste mass. This reaction is not the result of a fire or subsurface oxidation event within the waste mass.”

Still, the Times cites Cal Recycle in noting that the near-boiling temperatures recorded in 2023 and climbing levels of carbon monoxide could be an indication of a sub-surface landfill fire. 

What’s Behind the Sunshine Canyon Landfill Odors?

Meanwhile, heavy rains soaked the Sunshine Canyon landfill in 2022 and 2023. The area saw about four times its normal rainfall between late 2022 and early 2023, and then Tropical Storm Hilary drenched the area in August 2023. 

The heavy rains led to water intrusion at the landfill, soaking the decomposing garbage and fueling bacteria growth that’s let off methane and hydrogen sulfide. Odor complaints about the landfill have been common over the last several years, but complaints spiked in late 2023. 

Health Effects of Landfill Pollution Exposure

According to a County of Los Angeles Public Health release, the short-term effects of exposure to the odor at the Chaquita Canyon landfill can include:

  • Chest tightness
  • Congestion
  • Cacho
  • Depresión
  • Drowsiness
  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Dolores de cabeza
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Wheezing

The release says these symptoms are not permanent but can make pre-existing conditions worse. It also stated that the levels of benzene and carbon tetrachloride were elevated at Chiquita Canyon Landfill, but the elevated “levels found are similar to levels of these VOCs throughout the County and any potential health risks appear to be associated with the larger-scale air quality issues in Los Angeles County.”

Nevertheless, some residents in communities near the landfills were upset by the report. One resident of a community near the Chaquita Canyon landfill told the LA Times she’s “sick of being sick” and the symptoms “have stolen my life.” Many have voiced concern that the report does not reflect their experience living near the landfills in the past months or years.

If You Suffered Negative Effects After Landfill Pollution Exposure, You Have Legal Options

If you live in or near the following areas and are feeling ill effects of landfill exposure, you may be eligible for compensation: Valencia, Sylmar, Santa Clarita, Porter Ranch, Northridge, Granada Hills, or Castaic. Call KJT Grupo de Derecho today for a free consultation: (818) 507-8525.

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