Waste Connections announced it has defeated a $5.1 million enforcement order against Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW) had issued the enforcement order in 2017, alleging that Chiquita Canyon Landfill had failed to pay the county millions of dollars in solid waste management fees in the 2011-14 period.
DPW argued that Chiquita should have paid disposal fees on materials classified as beneficial reuse and used for beneficial use purposes at the landfill, including daily cover and other maintenance purposes, because DPW believed that Chiquita’s use of soil and beneficial reuse materials was excessive.
DPW argued that Chiquita should have maintained a 4:1 ratio of disposed waste to beneficial reuse materials (for instance, no more than 20 percent beneficial reuse materials) and that Chiquita’s use of soil and beneficial reuse materials was far greater than 20 percent. According to documents, DPW then “reclassified” 75 percent of Chiquita’s use of beneficial reuse materials as “disposal” and sought disposal fees and administrative penalties totaling more than $5.1 million dollars.
Chiquita Canyon, a Waste Connections subsidiary, vigorously contested the enforcement order, and the matter went to trial in September 2018 before a county DPW hearing officer.
In a six-page decision, Hearing Officer Rossana D’Antonio rejected the county’s arguments and voided all fees and penalties. First, she found that Chiquita never disposed of clean soil at the landfill. Chiquita stored soil for daily cover and other practical uses at the landfill.
Second, D’Antonio found that DPW “failed to demonstrate its independent authority under the County Code or [state law] to reclassify clean soil as excessive beneficial reuse material, making it waste subject to the [disposal] Fee.”
Third, she rejected the county’s invocation of a purported requirement that beneficial reuse material not exceed a 4:1 ratio of waste to beneficial reuse material: “Public Works testified that the 4:1 ratio was an industry standard, but there was no evidence or testimony that the 4:1 total disposal to beneficial reuse ratio is anything but arbitrary … This Hearing Officer recognizes that the operation of a landfill is dynamic and that waste to cover ratio determinations and calculations are not an exact science.”
“The company is pleased with the decision and appreciates the close attention of the hearing officer to the evidence and law,” said James Little, Waste Connections’ senior vice president for engineering and disposal, in a statement. “Chiquita Canyon Landfill is an important pillar of the Southern California economy with an almost perfect compliance record since Waste Connections’ acquisition of the landfill in 2010. We’re proud of how we can repurpose large amounts of soil, C&D, green waste and other beneficial reuse material to make this a best-in-class landfill. We value our relationship with the regulators in Los Angeles County and look forward to continuing to work with them to help Chiquita Canyon meet the needs of its many municipal and commercial customers in the Los Angeles area.”