Avenal residents question landfill’s smell and health impacts during contentious community meeting

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AVENAL, California (KGPE) – A community meeting in Avenal became a protest Monday night over the Avenal Landfill.

Residents fed up with the city’s landfill say the smell is a nuisance and the emissions are a detriment to their health.

At the city’s request, the residents compiled pages of questions for city leaders and landfill managers. The meeting Monday was organized to get their concerns addressed and questions answers.

Residents showed up but left soon after when they saw the set up at the meeting. There were tables with landfill representatives from Avenal but also from the Chiquita Canyon in southern California. Some residents say it was designed to avoid questions.

“They have about five tables giving everyone different answers they are telling people they can’t answer things, giving people a run-around,” said one resident.

The residents who left came back a short time later holding signs and chanting.

“This goes along with poor communities of color being a dumping ground for big business,” said Erika Garza, a former Avenal resident who is now advocating for residents.

Representatives from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District Control were also present. They said all of Avenal landfill permits are in line and urge anyone with concerns regarding air quality to reach out to them.

According to CalRecycle inspections, Avenal Landfill has received numerous violations dating back to 1993 when the database begins. Their inspections happen monthly without notice.

Site manager George Anderson said many are minor and mitigated immediately.

“Everything at the Avenal landfill I know of, looking at past records, any corrective action has taken place and always been taken care of,” said Anderson.

Anderson has been site manager for four years. He described the company as one that takes all necessary steps to run a safe, legal operation with as little impact on the environment as possible.

“I’m more than happy to give anyone a tour and answer any questions they may have. I open myself up at any city council meeting and I opened myself up to them again tonight and I hope people take advantage of it,” said Anderson.

Avenal Mayor Dagoberto Ovalle said the smell residents describe could come from a variety of sources with the city located in an agricultural region. As for health concerns, he said there’s little data.

“The landfill has been there quite a few years, and all of a sudden it becomes an issue and we aren’t really sure where this comes from,” said Ovalle.

Ovalle said the city makes more than $100,000 a year from the landfill that goes to services like the police and fire departments. He worries if the landfill is shut down then the residents will pay.

“I suppose if enough people, the whole city, says shut it down, then okay, but there will be a humongous cost to the city and guess who is going to cover it, the residents,” said Ovalle.

Avenal residents plan to go to Thursday’s city council meeting where they will continue to voice their concerns.

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