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Sriracha smell complaints began with Irwindale councilman's son

In a declaration filed Thursday morning, David Tran, chief executive and founder of Huy Fong Foods, said the first complaints about the Sriracha hot sauce factory in late 2012 came from an Irwindale city councilman's son.

The declaration does not name the councilman's son, but sources told The Times it refers to the son of councilman Hector Manuel Ortiz. The Irwindale City Council and city manager have not responded to requests for comment made Thursday morning.

According to the declaration, Huy Fong Foods responded to the son's first complaint last year by installing filters. The matter seemed to be resolved, until September, when he complained again, a month after chili grinding had begun, according to the declaration.

Huy Fong officials have responded by installing additional filters and inviting engineers from the South Coast Air Quality Management District to inspect the plant. City officials, according to Tran, suggested using an air-filtration system that would cost $600,000 to install, but Tran said he wanted to explore other options. The company has since contacted three separate air quality consultants to determine the best smell reduction methods, according to the declaration.

Irwindale City Attorney Fred Galante said that the city has received complaints from a variety of residents, including people suffering from asthma and parents whose children cannot play outside because of the smell. The city has received approximately 20 to 30 smell complaints, Galante said. 

"If we receive ongoing complaints, we will pursue the action," Galante said.

Sal Hernandez, a 75-year-old former Irwindale councilman who lives on Azusa Canyon Road, just a few houses from the Huy Fong plant, said he has never noticed a smell. He said he was surprised the city went after the maker of Sriracha hot sauce so quickly and aggressively.

“It hasn’t bothered me yet. I haven’t had any effects from it, and I’m right next door to it,” Hernandez said.

A former reserve police officer who has lived in the city for more than 30 years, Hernandez said few people go before the council to complain about the smell from other factories in town - like the huge MillerCoors Brewery or a dog food manufacturer on Arrow Highway.

“Things we should go to court for we don’t, and for this thing, we’re taking [the Sriracha company] to court,” he said. “I’m surprised. They were praising this thing before they even came in. Everyone was praising it.”

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Twitter: @frankshyong

frank.shyong@latimes.com

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