- The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recently approved a contract with UltraSystems Environmental, Inc. to monitor the Chiquita Canyon Landfill for at least five years, at a cost not exceeding $4.5 million, as first reported by The Signal.
- The specific terms of the contract mandate that UltraSystems monitor current conditions, the requirements of an implementation and monitoring plan, and all mitigation measures. The company will also be required to produce quarterly reports to county officials detailing the work.
- The cost of monitoring is being covered by Chiquita Canyon Landfill, a subsidiary of Waste Connections. The monitoring work was required by Los Angeles County when it renewed Waste Connections' operating permit in 2017.
Movement around the landfill — and whether it would be expanded or pared back — drew notable community ire in 2017. The site, open since the early '70s and later acquired by Waste Connections, has long been a target of community and environmental groups who oppose its operation.
Per the latest contract, Waste Connections can operate the site for an additional 30 years (expiring in 2047) or until Chiquita hits a capacity of 60 million tons. During 2017, Waste Connections made a rare public comment against the terms, and CEO Ron Mittelstaedt referred to California and Los Angeles County specifically as "communist" — in part because of the unprecedented extra costs associated with operating Chiquita Canyon, which at the time were estimated to be about $15 million annually.
In what was perhaps an early signal that the company and Mittelstaedt were becoming unhappy with regulatory requirements in California, Waste Connections moved its corporate headquarters from California to Texas in 2012.
Since 2017, the company's public comments about the new contract have been more muted, due in part to the ongoing status of two separate lawsuits over the expansion. These new costs will be paid out of a trust established by Chiquita Canyon LLC. Given Mittelstaedt's previous comments — and the fact that the new Chiquita requirements were cited as a primary factor for $1.3 million worth of volume decreases in Q3 of 2018 — these new additional costs are likely unwelcome.
The monitoring contract will also be able to provide recommendations, at the request of county officials, on "landfill development and operational problems, as well as other technical and vegetation issues at the site," which could potentially lead to new operational costs in the future.
It's still unclear what the quarterly reports now required by UltraSystems will mean, but they promise to be detailed. Per the contract, the reports will include information on inspection and mitigation work, including updates on odors, noise, air quality and the efficacy of the site's gas collection system. These quarterly reports may provide deeper insight into how Chiquita Canyon, a landfill in the second largest metro area in the country, operates.