An asphalt factory in Irvine residents have protested for years received two odor violations in two days from state regulators this month.

Residents say they weren’t told about the factory before moving in, and now can’t escape a nearly daily barrage of chemicals in the air near their homes and schools. 

[Read: Irvine Residents Raise Alarm Over Dangerous Emissions In Million Dollar Neighborhood]

So far, the primary penalties enforced on the factory have come from the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s violation notices. Those notices can lead to civil penalties against the factory, with the fees for past violations at the factory generally costing around $10,000 each. 

The new violations that rolled in on January 13 and 14 are the factory’s sixth and seventh odor violations since September 2019. 

The All American Asphalt facility has been running since 1993 and was incorporated into Irvine in the early 2000s. Over time, the Irvine Company built up the neighborhood of Orchard Hills, one of its most expensive developments in the city, within a mile of the factory itself. 

While residents were happy to see the violations filed against the factory, they’ve complained for months that the air quality district’s system makes it almost impossible to make any movement. 

“The air is so bad that no matter how slow these inspectors are now they can smell it,” said Kim Konte, one of the neighborhood organizers who lives near the plant, in a phone call with Voice of OC Monday morning. 

“The problem hasn’t been solved.”

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For regulators to file a complaint against the factory, they need to have six confirmed complaints from residents in the surrounding area and confirm the smell exists themselves, in person. 

Yet sometimes regulators don’t show up until hours later, by which time the smell can have dissipated. 

Regulators are also required to speak with the people who filed the complaints, and residents have reported when they file a complaint in the morning they often have to leave for work before the inspector arrives to take their statement, rendering their complaint unconfirmable. 

From September 2019 to February 2020, the air quality district confirmed they received over 700 complaints about the factory, which led to only one notice of violation in that time span. 

On January 13, when the first complaint was filed, 14 different residents called in complaints, after which the district sent out inspectors to the areas surrounding the factory to look for the smell before they went to the factory and confirmed asphalt was being produced at the time of the odor. 

“We have confirmation from residents today they never even received a callback,” Konte said. 

Air quality district staff did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Voice of OC reporters Monday morning. 

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But as violations continue to mount against the factory, no one has a good idea on who’s going to tackle the larger issues for residents. 

Currently, Irvine city council members and state Senator Dave Min have both called on the other to step up, saying that they need the other person to fix the problem because they don’t have jurisdiction. 

[Read: Irvine Council, State Senator Play Hot Potato on Addressing Asphalt Factory Emissions]

The city is currently waging a lawsuit against the factory that hasn’t had a public update since it was first filed in July 2020. 

According to the case’s register of actions on the Orange County court’s website, a jury trial is currently scheduled for September 2022.

In a news release last Thursday, Irvine Councilman Larry Agran said he had requested a public presentation on the lawsuit as well as additional lawyers to study the issue, but had yet to receive a second from another council member to put the issue on the council’s agenda. 

In addition to the lawsuit, the city also passed new restrictions on the trucks leaving the factory, requiring they drive out through roads that don’t pass through neighborhoods and schools. 

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada. 

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