SCAQMD Files Petition Seeking to Require Sunshine Canyon Landfill to Modify Operations to Reduce Odors

July 19, 2016

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has filed a petition with an administrative law panel that if adopted would require operators of Sunshine Canyon Landfill to change its operations to substantially reduce its foul odors.

Air quality officials filed the petition with the independent SCAQMD Hearing Board in response to ongoing odors from the Sylmar landfill that have resulted in more than 3,000 complaints filed with SCAQMD since 2013.

 “We’ve developed a combination of best practices that when implemented, we expect will provide relief to communities near the landfill,” said Wayne Nastri, SCAQMD’s acting executive officer. “The proposed order is the result of a collaborative effort with a number of local agencies to address odors from the landfill that have persisted for years and have forced residents, school children and school staff at times to remain indoors.”

SCAQMD has conducted numerous air quality inspections at Sunshine Canyon Landfill and in nearby communities since early 2009.  These efforts have shown that the gas collection system, daily treatment of incoming waste and waste cover procedures have been inadequate in controlling odors from landfill operations.

The SCAQMD Hearing Board will consider the proposed order during a hearing in the community near the landfill next month, at a time and place to be determined shortly.  Residents will have an opportunity to provide public testimony at the hearing. 

If adopted by the Hearing Board, the order will require operators of Sunshine Canyon landfill to:

  • Prepare and submit to SCAQMD’s Hearing Board a detailed analysis on the feasibility of curtailing the amount of trash received daily at the landfill.
  • Modify hours of operations for unloading of all trucks and provide independent air monitoring at Van Gogh Charter School;
  • Develop a traffic mitigation program to address unnecessary truck trips that may result from a change in operational hours;
  • Continue using alternative daily surface cover as part of an ongoing one-year demonstration that began in October 2015;
  • Initiate an intermediate surface cover enhancement pilot program that includes surface gas monitoring;
  • Propose and implement additional upgrades and improvements for landfill areas with intermediate surface cover;
  • Dewater wells impacted by liquids as expeditiously as possible;
  • Prepare and submit a plan to evaluate and perform integrity tests on the gas collection wells;
  • Propose additional best management practices to enhance current efforts to reduce fresh trash odors;
  • Propose best management practices for reducing odors at sources, transfer stations owned by the landfill operator and at the landfill; and
  • Assess the feasibility of installing a potential physical barrier or dust/odor containment or control structures at the landfill.

The proposed order includes continued coordination with state and local regulatory agencies overseeing landfill operations.

The proposed order is consistent with recommendations in a report released late last year.  The odor reduction measures identified in the report relied on the expert opinions of consultants in the trash and gas collection industry and retained by SCAQMD.

Sunshine Canyon Landfill receives almost 9,000 tons of municipal solid waste per day. This waste generates landfill gas comprised of 50 percent methane and 50 percent carbon dioxide.  Landfill gas, unless adequately collected, may escape into the air causing odors. In addition, odors from trash also contribute to odors experienced in the communities.

SCAQMD has worked on multiple fronts to reduce odors from operations at the landfill.  In 2009, the SCAQMD Hearing Board adopted an order requiring Sunshine Canyon landfill operators to implement a number of improvements at the landfill to reduce odors.

In 2011, the SCAQMD Hearing Board amended its order to require an air monitoring study be conducted to estimate long-term air toxic exposure in the community. Study results showed air toxics levels that were typical of other areas of the region. But strong unpleasant odors persisted in the area causing headaches, nausea and other health problems to a significant number of residents, including children attending nearby Van Gogh Elementary School.

Despite multiple efforts to reduce odors from its operations, Sunshine Canyon Landfill continues to be in violation of state law and SCAQMD odor nuisance regulations. Since October 25, 2013, SCAQMD has received more than 3,000 odor complaints and has issued more than 90 Notices of Violation to the landfill for public nuisance.

Sunshine Canyon Landfill is located in Sylmar and operated by Browning-Ferris Industries.  The landfill operates within both the city and county of Los Angeles boundaries.

The SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.