AQMD Steps Up Odor Investigation in Mecca
MECCA – In response to odor complaints received from Mecca residents, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) has launched an intensive air monitoring and analysis effort to further determine the source and chemical constituents of foul odors in and around the community.
“We are taking these complaints from residents very seriously,” said Riverside County Supervisor John J. Benoit, who also serves as an AQMD Governing Board Member. “We are committed to finding solutions to this issue.”
AQMD inspections of area facilities have concluded that operations at Western Environmental, a waste recycling and treatment facility just north of Mecca on land owned by the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, has been the major source of foul odors. Western Environmental has drained an oil/water separation pond and is in the process of cleaning up residual material which should significantly reduce odors associated with that part of the operation.
AQMD initiated daily air sampling last week at Saul Martinez and Mecca elementary schools. AQMD officials have also gained access to the Western Environmental site to analyze air samples near the ponds with a sophisticated portable device known as a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer. Laboratory analysis of air samples is aimed at identifying the “chemical fingerprint” to verify the specific source of odors.
In addition to analyzing air samples for fingerprinting chemical constituents, AQMD will determine whether the chemicals measured at these schools pose any long-term health risk to residents. So far, limited air sampling has not indicated any long-term health risks from compounds measured at schools. No compounds have been measured which would be anticipated to cause symptoms such as headaches and nausea (such as symptoms reported in December of last year).
In its odor investigation AQMD will continue working cooperatively with Supervisor Benoit’s office, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Riverside County Department of Environmental Health and officials with the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians and Western Environmental.
Once adequate sample results are collected and analyzed, AQMD will host a town hall meeting in Mecca to share its results with community members, Supervisor Benoit said.
Residents are encouraged to call AQMD’s 24-hour complaint line at 1-800-CUT-SMOG (288-7664) to report foul odors. Spanish-speakers can call 1-800-876-3666 to speak to a Spanish-speaking operator from Tuesdays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and they can leave a message during non-business hours.