A class-action lawsuit has been filed against companies that pick up Santa Clarita's trash, alleging that they have been overcharging residents for waste services.
The suit claims that Santa Claritans were "victimized" by the companies' "unlawful and systematic practice of overcharging its clients for waste disposal," according to the complaint filed Wednesday by a Santa Clarita attorney, Gregory Owen, and a trio of lawyers from Sherman Oaks.
The suit does not specify an amount for damages. But Owen said he believes residents have been overcharged by between $5 million and $25 million since 1996.
Santa Clarita homeowners pay some of the highest trash bills in Los Angeles County, and controversy surrounding trash has roiled City Hall for two years.
Former City Manager George Caravalho, who left the job in 2002, came under fire for perceived problems with the contracts in May 2001 and the issue has figured prominently in city elections.
According to the suit, the companies were contractually obligated to link rates to the cost of dumping trash at the landfill. However, the suit claims, the companies failed to provide accurate information on the cost of dumping. Owen said problems with the reporting of dumping fees starting in 1996.
Gail Ortiz, a spokeswoman for the city, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Named as defendants are the city's current haulers, Blue Barrel Disposal and Consolidated Disposal Service. Because of a complex series of acquisitions and mergers in the trash disposal industry in recent years, other companies are also named, including industry giants Waste Management, which owns Blue Barrel, and Republic Services, owner of Consolidated.
Attempts on Thursday to reach officials of Waste Management and Republic Services were unsuccessful.
Frustrations over the price of trash service prompted the City Council to put its contracts out to bid last year. In November, the council voted to keep a relationship with Blue Barrel for its residential trash service but signed up a new player, Burrtec Waste Industries, to handle commercial trash.
As a result of the new contracts, in January residents' monthly trash rates will fall from $22.13 per household to $18.64.