Op-Ed: Scholl Canyon has clear and hidden dangers

Many Glendale residents don’t realize the city has operated a dump in Scholl Canyon, in its southeast corner bordering Eagle Rock and Pasadena, for more than 50 years. Now the city is exploring another expansion to the dump, a process initiated with a 2014 Draft Environmental Impact Report that exposes some of the dump’s pollution dangers.

This plan is fatally flawed. We call on Glendale officials to abandon the push for dump expansion and take it off the table.

Two scientists, one from UCLA and the other from Caltech, completed a comprehensive study of the dump in 2015 to determine the impact of the proposed expansion.

They raise a major concern, not even mentioned in the environmental report, of the active Verdugo fault less than half a mile from the now 500-acre dump. Scientific evidence shows the fault capable of earthquakes in the range of 6.0 to 6.7 on the Richter scale. With the dump not on firm footing, one could call the plan for its expansion faulty.

According to a 2003 Technical Background Report by the city of Glendale, the dump rests on granite that is “highly shattered, sheared, and crushed.”

This dump base does not conform to standards from the Environmental Protection Agency that, since 1998, have called for an “impermeable barrier” to the toxic compounds that build up in and travel through massive trash piles, even in landfills designated for household waste only, as in the case of the Scholl Canyon dump. Glendale opened the dump in 1961 with no such “impermeable barrier.” The ineffectiveness of the fractured rock base is worrisome for two immediate reasons.

First, the UCLA geologist found that compounds known to cause cancer are present in test wells west of the dump. Second, the likelihood of further quake activity on the Verdugo fault and other nearby faults will make the fractured granite even more porous due to additional shearing of the rock base.

The potential for environmental disaster will only deepen with expansion of the dump, increasing both the scale and scope of risk to city wells, the L.A. River, and residents far beyond Glendale. Glendale has an obligation to prevent harm from those problems

Pollution of the ground and water are not the only dangers from the dump. Glendale’s 2014 report seeking clearance to raise the height of the dump by 180 feet states that it will result in “significant unavoidable adverse impacts relating to air quality,” even after mitigation.

That is especially unsettling for seniors and young children, such as those in Glenoaks Canyon or at Dahlia Heights Elementary in Eagle Rock, many of whom also take advantage of nearby parks. Time spent outdoors is a risk factor for lung damage from the fine and coarse particles and nitrous oxide that the dump emits.

Glendale City Council in 2011 unanimously approved a zero-waste policy that commits the city to reducing trash and dumping by 75% by 2020 and 90% by 2030. Any dump expansion contradicts and undermines this policy.

Glendale’s original Joint Powers Agreement with L.A. County, which established the dump in 1961 states, “County’s rights to use City property shall be for 17 years ... or until such property has served its purpose and shall have been completely filled as herein specified, whichever first occurs, whereupon all rights of District and County shall terminate.” This means the dump should actually have closed in the late 1970s.

Abiding by the original intent of the Joint Powers Agreement and closing the Scholl Canyon dump is not an obstacle, but an opportunity. Glendale can be an example not only to California, but to the country, demonstrating innovation and sensitivity to protecting both its own and nearby residents and the environment with smarter, less polluting waste solutions that conform with the city’s zero-waste policy.

We urge the Glendale City Council to take dump expansion off the table. Focus instead on safer, forward-thinking waste policy. That’s solid ground.


ADAM STARR is a father of two and a resident of Glenoaks Canyon in Glendale. He can be reached at

HANS JOHNSON, who lives in Eagle Rock, is founder of Communities United to Stop Scholl Dump Expansion. He can be reached at