A new report by California regulators concludes the All American Asphalt plant in Irvine is safe to live by, but residents who’ve reported its odors as a constant nuisance say it’s still a big problem in their daily life.
The factory has been one of the largest issues in Irvine city politics over the last two years after residents organized and began reporting the factory was emitting harmful chemicals including benzene and formaldehyde into their neighborhood.
But according to the most recent health risks assessment report of the factory published on the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s website, the risks of a major health impact are low.
The risk of “offsite,” cancer infection is estimated at just over 77 in one million, or a .007% chance, and no public notification of that cancer risk or hazard reduction is required, regulators concluded.
To review the entire report, click here.
But residents have reported the factory causes a nuisance in their daily lives, with dozens of residents coming to Irvine City Council meetings over the past two years to share what it’s like, regularly listing concerns such as a constant coughing, extreme asthma and fears to open the window.
“My grandparents came to visit us to find a home … so they could live in our community,” said Eric, a public commenter at the council’s July 12 meeting. “My grandparents are from Beijing, where the air is not the best. So what is telling is that when they got out here, they had to stop their daily walks, because they said their eyes would burn and sting from the air.”
The report was based on data from the factory’s 2016 emission reports, and came years after the air quality district found errors with All American Asphalt’s emission reporting through audits of the data.
Those reports have since been corrected, and the facility’s annual emissions information can be viewed here.
“Actual emissions were higher than previously reported for some pollutants, which led to additional requirements for AAA,” said Nahal Mogharabi, the district’s chief of communications, in a statement to Voice of OC.
All American Asphalt did not respond to a request for comment from Voice of OC.
When asked why the facility’s 2016 data was used instead of more recent information, Mogharabi said it was the most recent data available when they ordered a review in February 2020 because the facility only submits in depth reports every four years.
“South Coast AQMD believes the approved HRA is an appropriate and conservative representation of potential health risks being posed by the facility,” Moghrabi said in a statement to Voice of OC.
District staff rejected both initial drafts of the agency’s health risk assessment and its air toxics inventory report, but both have since been approved by the district and can be viewed here.
With the completion of the health risk assessment, the air quality district isn’t waiting on any more reports from the asphalt factory for the first time in years.
Irvine city leaders are trying to negotiate with the factory right now to move it out of the city, but no details of a settlement have been reached yet, with city manager Oliver Chi stating publicly he “anticipates” they’d have a deal reached by the end of September.
“We think we have a framework AAA has tentatively agreed to,” Chi said. “Key issues we’re still resolving are identifying a different site they may be relocating to.”
But while city leaders are still looking at how to solve the problem, some residents have given up waiting after years of trying to get the factory shut down, with some
Kim Konte, one of the original leaders of the effort to shut down the factory, moved all the way to South Carolina and said that their local elected leaders have failed to help at every step along the way.
“(Residents) still have zero safeguards in place after we’ve been asking our elected officials to help us from 2018 on,” Konte said in a phone call with Voice of OC. “I’m very happy to have the window open and listen to the rain without worrying about benzene.”
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and a corps member with Report for America, a Groundtruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.