As litigation over the relocation of the All American Asphalt facility continues, residents in Orchard Hills remain frustrated over consistent foul odors. They also fear the presence of potentially carcinogenic compounds is creating the potential for hazardous air quality in Irvine. 

However, a newly published report from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the facility’s regulatory agency, presents data that could potentially quell fears of toxic emissions. 

In July, the Irvine City Council voted unanimously to relocate the asphalt facility but stopped short of implementing regulations on its own air quality in early August. Now, Irvine City Manager Oliver Chi expects the framework surrounding the facility’s relocation settlement to be presented in late September.  

“We’re nearing completion of a framework to identify a settlement process to resolve the current legal dispute between the city and AAA. We hope to have that framework presented for City Council review at our second meeting in September,” he said. “The route we’ve been working toward is how do we identify interim mitigations that AAA would have to institute to reduce some of the odors and impacts that residents have brought up, while simultaneously working on an identified process to manage a possible relocation of the facility – out of the city.” 

Yet residents say that despite years of discussions between legislators, local leaders and AQMD, little has changed — and the odors continue to linger.

“The city continues to recognize there are legitimate odor impacts. That’s something we are working to continue to resolve,” Chi said. “I think the good news is that there are no health risks associated with the emission from that plant. What [the AQMD] identified is that there are no corresponding health impacts that anyone needs to worry about. I think that is really encouraging and an important piece of information that the community hopefully will absorb.”

With three odor violations in 2022, and 1,400 odor complaints since 2019, a recently published report from the South Coast Air Quality Management District indicates that emissions produced by the facility, which produces hot mix asphalt, have not exceeded regulatory standards. 

Chi added that while odors are undoubtedly causing a nuisance for residents in North Irvine, the latest finding published in AQMD’s Health Risk Assessment report should put residents at ease.    

“AQMD recently published their Health Risk Assessment of the All American Asphalt plant and identified that there are no health risks for any residents based on the emissions occurring at the plant. There’s some fairly detailed information that we’ve been tracking and there’s going to be a community meeting with AQMD to run through all those details at the end of September,” Chi said. 

In terms of pollutant emissions, the Irvine community of Orchard Hills has worried and voiced public concern about the negative health effects associated with the potentially carcinogenic compounds that are produced by the facility’s asphalt production.

Known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds), the All American Asphalt crumb rubber production facility is one of the county’s biggest producers of compounds like benzene, formaldehyde and chromium, a byproduct of metal coating.

In fact, the amount of benzene the All American Asphalt facility produces increased between 2020 and 2021, according to AQMD emission reports.

In 2020, AAA produced approximately 221 pounds of benzene and 1,781 pounds of formaldehyde. In 2021, the AAA facility produced approximately 386 pounds of benzene and approximately 491 pounds of formaldehyde.

The Health Risk Assessment, approved by AQMD on Friday, Aug. 19, specifically addresses the risk of cancer associated with the facility for both residents offsite and onsite workers. The cancer risk assessment was based on a “one in a million chance” that a person would develop cancer if exposed to “a certain level of a chemical over a period of time.” 

Based on All American Asphalt’s 2016 emission report, the total cancer risk for a resident offsite would be 4.5 in a million, based on 30 years of exposure. 

However, AQMD also indicated that while emissions remained below the unhealthy level threshold, there were “discrepancies” within the facility’s emission reporting between 2016 – 2017, according to its website. 

“There were some emission differences reported by AAA between 2016 and 2017. South Coast AQMD subsequently required AAA to correct emissions reports from 2015 through 2021 using the most up-to-date information,” the website read. 

In terms of a timeline for relocation, Chi remains confident the city of Irvine can complete the litigation before 2023. 

“The City Council obviously has to weigh in on the contours of the settlement. Our hope is that we do have the settlement approved and embedded in 2022, as we move toward the Fall that we can say definitively with the AAA plant,” Chi said.

While Irvine residents are undoubtedly ready for more change to occur, some have already taken action. 

Kim Konte, an Irvine resident since 2013, said her family recently moved away from Irvine. Konte founded the environmental group Non-Toxic Neighborhoods, which has helped generate significant community attention to the odor issues in Orchard Hills.   

When asked what prompted her move away from Irvine, Konte responded:

“Moved to get away from AAA,” she wrote. “The lack of action by Irvine’s council majority to get on the right side of the public health crisis the Irvine Company and the city created, we had no choice but to move. I am still working on this issue and I will not stop until they are shut down!”

AQMD will host a community meeting to go over the findings published in the Health Risk Assessment report on Wednesday, Sept. 28. For more information, or to sign up for notifications visit www.aqmd/sign-up.

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