Irvine approves regulations for asphalt plant that residents say spreads toxic fumes
Following years of pressure from residents, Irvine approved new measures this week to regulate an asphalt plant that may spread toxic fumes into the air.
Trucks carrying materials from the All American Asphalt plant, located near Orchard Hills, will now have new routes away from schools and residential areas. The city will also require that the existence of the plant is disclosed to people who are looking to buy homes in the area. The city is also planning on rolling out strategic checkpoints to ensure that trucks are following proper procedures.
The council rejected an idea to create an $800,000 hotline for residents to report odor incidents to the city, because of the expense.
North Irvine residents have been complaining for years of potentially toxic fumes and foul smells coming from the All American Asphalt plant. They’ve claimed that the fumes harm their health, causing troubling respiratory symptoms and possibly contributing to future chronic illnesses.
For a long time, they felt that their voices were falling on deaf ears.
The city responded last year by filing a lawsuit against the asphalt plant, claiming it’s in violation of air quality regulations and local public nuisance provisions. Then in response to pressure from residents, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, a regional air quality regulator, chose to conduct further testing of the site, and the city of Irvine hired contractors for further testing.
But to the dismay of residents, the investigations found no toxic health concerns from the asphalt plant. Meanwhile, they still report bad smells and health issues.
Earlier this year, residents filed a separate lawsuit against All American Asphalt and have criticized the SCAQMD and contractors for using faulty testing methods during their air quality investigations.
The residents are now making some headway with the City Council’s finalizing of the restrictions during a meeting on Tuesday night.
The idea for the truck regulations was raised a few weeks ago after residents reported seeing trucks carrying asphalt through residential areas.
Resident Tom Hazard showed a video during a public comment portion of the meeting showing an asphalt truck driving near Canyon View Elementary School.
“This illustrates the point that it’s very hard to enforce this problem without a checkpoint, and I believe a checkpoint at the point of departure where the trucks are can with 100% certainty inform every truck of the proper route to take,” Hazard said.
Hazard and other residents also spoke about the need for a hotline so residents can directly report odor events to the city. Currently, residents report incidents to the SCAQMD, but residents take issue with the regulator’s investigatory process. SCAQMD needs at least six confirmed complaints before investigating an odor. Hazard said SCAQMD inspectors are “wildly inconsistent,” with some quickly working to confirm odors and others not responding in person to confirm incidents.
Instead of the hotline, Mayor Farrah Khan proposed during the meeting that the city should move forward with adding a function to the city’s Access Irvine mobile app that allows people to report odor incidents. Councilman Larry Agran took issue with the lack of a hotline.
“I personally believe, as I’ve expressed before, that we need more than an app,” Agran said. “If it falls a little short, of course I’ll be pressing, as no doubt others would, for a beefed up hotline code enforcement mechanism that can be linked also to [SCAQMD] to make sure that it’s kind of a one-stop complaint for folks.”
Agran has been outspoken in his support for the residents in the All American Asphalt saga. During the council’s last meeting, he said he doesn’t believe the air quality issues will be resolved without the shutdown of the plant.
For Kim Konte, founder of Non-Toxic Neighborhoods, the regulations are also not enough to ensure the safety of her neighborhood. Non-Toxic Neighborhoods is a community group that has been leading the effort against All American Asphalt.
“It’s great to see the city’s finally providing transparency and proper notification concerning the largest polluter of group one carcinogens in the city with the new real estate disclosures for properties near All American Asphalt,” Konte said Wednesday in a text message. “That said, the truck regulation = a red herring. The fact is our children still do not have any protection from the largest polluter of group one carcinogens in the city.”
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