Orchard Hills asphalt plan takes on lawsuit

Rita Lai, Accent Editor

To address the lawsuit against the All American Asphalt company by Irvine residents earlier in the year, the City of Irvine held a council meeting on Sept. 14 to discuss residential concerns and provide legal solutions.

The lawsuit was originally filed on March 19 on behalf of over 2,000 homeowners against All American Asphalt for public nuisance, private nuisance and negligence. The general allegations cite foul odor, poor air quality, respiratory symptoms, chronic illnesses and obstructing outdoor activity.
“I live in the Orchard Hills area, and since moving there, I’ve frequently heard concern regarding the asphalt plant from my neighbors,” sophomore Justin Oh said. “The fact that the plant is near our homes is worrying.”

Over 800 complaints have been reported to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, after which the asphalt plant took measures to contain fumes through increasing use of masking odorants and rerouting transport trucks. During on-site inspections from October 2019-20, the agency issued the plant with five violations for public nuisance and one violation regarding rules and permits, though the plant had not exceeded emissions limits.
Through air sampling, the community group Nontoxic Neighborhoods and volunteers from UCI found that there were high levels of volatile organic compounds nearby Orchard Hills and Northwood High School.
Despite the City of Irvine and SCAQMD’s sustained claims that there are no elevated levels of air toxicity in the area, many complained that the SCAQMD testing was not sufficient as it measured the average over hours, while residents report that the fumes tend to peak at certain hours.
Testing thus far has been unable to pinpoint the exact cause of reported noxious fumes.
“I have experienced the fumes, however, they were always associated with a passing asphalt transport truck or housing constructions,” Irvine resident and SCAQMD representative Jason Lowe said at the City Council meeting on Sept. 14.
Seemingly ineffective, the SCAQMD Settlement Agreement with the asphalt plant only requires that instructions are provided to all trucks and that the information is posted in a location easily available. So far, neither the city of Irvine or SCAQMD have jurisdiction over trucks after they leave the facility.
As the Sept. 28 meeting primarily discussed asphalt truck coverings and mandatory route restrictions, some residents were displeased that the focus was shifting away from the root cause, the plant itself.
“Please stop stonewalling,” Nontoxic Neighborhoods founder Kim Konte said. “Do not use road regulations and asphalt trucks as a red herring.”
Mayor Farrah Khan suggested the council would be in correspondence with Senator Dave Min, with his support after the Sept. 14 meeting in changing state legislature pre-empting the modification of city laws.