Inquiry Targets Asbestos Disposal in Santa Clarita

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Los Angeles County Health Department officials have launched an investigation into the apparent illegal dumping of asbestos in a remote area of Canyon Country in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Bill Jones, chief of investigations of the department’s Hazardous Material Control division, said numerous plastic trash bags containing asbestos were found in the past few days in a ravine at Warmuth Road and Rolling Hills Avenue, off Sand Canyon Road. Jones said he suspects that hundreds of bags of the material might be at the site.

“We think we’ve just got the tip of the iceberg,” Jones said. “We really don’t know the extent of how many bags are buried, or how it’s happening. It looks like a situation where someone in the asbestos field has been burying their waste up there.”


Jones described the area as a large, undeveloped ravine. No housing is nearby, he said, although the area is scheduled for residential development.

The owner of the property, John Burnett, a Pacoima-based developer, has been ordered to remove and dispose of the material, and has contracted with workers for the task, Jones said. Burnett could not be reached for comment Friday.

To dispose of the asbestos, the material must be placed in a thick plastic bag and taken to a landfill authorized to handle asbestos material.

Jones said officials will have to investigate further before they determine if the material was intentionally dumped illegally. If so, the offender could be charged with a felony punishable by a maximum fine of $100,000 and up to three years in prison.

Asbestos is a building material that causes extensive lung damage and disease if inhaled. Jones said there was concern about off-road bikers and others who might breathe the material because it had been buried only two to three feet underground.

“There’s a real chance that off-road vehicles could have dug it up,” he said. “We’re particularly concerned about the exposure.”


Plastic bags with asbestos have been showing up in that area for several years, but the recent discovery marks the most extensive amount found, Jones said.

The bags were apparently found by someone hiking in the area, he said. Authorities have not determined how long the material has been at the site.