Environment & Science

Air quality agency outlines steps to reduce massive Sylmar landfill's stench

An April 2016 image of the Sunshine Canyon Landfill.
An April 2016 image of the Sunshine Canyon Landfill.
Sunshine Canyon Landfill Local Enforcement Agency

For years, neighbors of the massive Sunshine Canyon Landfill have complained of a nasty stench. Tonight, the  South Coast Air Quality Management District will hold latest in a series of meetings about air quality and odor issues from the facility

The landfill is based in Sylmar, but Granada Hills has borne the brunt of bad smells, according to South Coast AQMD spokesman Sam Atwood.

At the meeting, they'll introduce a half-dozen steps that South Coast AQMD is going to be pursuing to try to address those odors, Atwood said.

The most important step, according to Atwood, is going to be seeking an order for abatement from the AQMD's independent hearing board. The specifics are still being worked out, but conditions could include:

"Unfortunately, we have issued literally dozens of notices of violation for nuisance odors to the landfilland its operator. But to date, the steps they have taken — and there have been a number of steps taken — they have not been effective," Atwood said.

He added that eliminating the odors may not be a possibility, but that the steps taken so far haven't even been successful in minimizing the stench — another abatement order was issued back in 2011, and residents filed a lawsuit in 2012. The number of complaints and the odor have been reduced, but it's still a significant problem, Atwood said.

"This is an extremely large landfill that takes an enormous amount of landfill on a daily basis," Atwood said.

According to the landfill's operator, it takes in 2.4 million tons of waste every year.

"Landfill personnel conduct routine odor inspections intended to prevent off-site odor or deal with odor as quickly as possible once detected," according to the landfill's website. They also have a 1-800 number for anyone who wants to make a complaint directly to their staff.

Atwood said that the AQMD is working with community members, a community advisory group and other agencies — including the city and county of Los Angeles — to try to take further steps to reduce landfill gas emissions and odors. Whether those efforts will be successful remains to be seen; the landfill has been receiving violation notices for decades, with numerous notifications in recent years. The L.A. City Council even previously considered closing it for good.

The Sunshine Canyon Landfill Local Enforcement Agency's Board of Directors is scheduled to meet at the University of West Los Angeles Law School in Chatsworth on June 21.