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Residents Call Out Public Agencies for Inaction on Handling Irvine Asphalt Factory Emissions

After years of working with the air quality district to address smells coming from an asphalt factory in their neighborhood, some Irvine residents have had enough, filing a lawsuit against the company and calling out public officials for their failure to address the problem.

A Voice of OC investigation earlier this year found residents living near the factory owned by All American Asphalt reported a stench forcing them to stay inside at all hours of the day, with measurements by homeowners showing higher levels of potentially dangerous chemicals in the air. 

“Whenever we left the windows open…it smelled so bad, like something was burning. Sometimes it would be so bad we’d have to tape up under the vents to keep the smell out. I’d put towels under the doors, the garage in the morning would just completely smell like asphalt.”

-Gillian Dale, Irvine resident

While the factory and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Orange County’s chief pollution regulator, have both maintained the fumes have had no impact on resident’s health, volunteer scientists from UC Irvine say that is still an open question without a better study. 

At a forum in March, district staff and the UCI advisors agreed to work together, locating scanners that could measure 24-hour averages and minute-to-minute air quality. 

Read: Air Quality District And Residents Agree To Study Asphalt Plant Emissions In Irvine Together

While the district and UCI do have co-located scanners, the combined data has not been released on the district’s website, which has continued to publish only its data. 

The air quality district is also conducting a review of the facility’s annual emissions reports after finding a “potential discrepancy” in the factory’s 2016 filings outlining the specific chemicals it releases. The factory has not been required to file a report of that detail since 2016.  

Despite the new testing, Nontoxic Neighborhoods, an activism group organized by residents, says district staff have ignored their questions on the factory, largely cutting off contact and haven’t responded to questions asked the day after the forum. 

In a statement to Voice of OC, the air quality district called their response “swift and robust,” saying it has responded to over 900 complaints near the factory since September 2019 and they are reviewing the factory’s emissions and permits to ensure its safety.

Homeowners Sue Asphalt Company

Frustrated by this slow movement, some residents have filed a class action lawsuit against the asphalt company.

The lawsuit was filed in March by Elmira Rad, a resident who lives near the factory, inviting anyone who has lived within two miles of the facility in the past three years to join. The lawsuit alleges the factory has failed to install adequate limits on the toxins it releases and demands monetary compensation for residents. 

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