EPA Orders Western Environmental to Stop Noxious Odors Coming From Calif. Facility

EPA has ordered Western Environmental Inc. to take immediate steps to address potentially harmful emissions coming from its Mecca, Calif., waste handling facility. The facility is located on the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians Reservation.

Western Environmental’s facility handles solid, semi-solid and liquid waste, including petroleum contaminated soil and biosolids from sewage treatment plants. Mounds of untreated contaminated soil have accumulated at the site and now stand more than 40-feet high.

“To protect the local community including nearby schools, EPA has ordered Western Environmental to take immediate action to eliminate this potential health threat,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "The order requires the facility to stop accepting any additional contaminated soils or biosolids without prior EPA approval."

In December 2010, after receiving complaints of odors that sent people to the hospital, the Air District and the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health dispatched staff to perform air sampling in the community and at the facility. EPA is working closely with the Cabazon Tribe, the State of California and the South Coast Air Quality Management District to coordinate response actions.

Today’s order, issued under the authority of the federal Resource Conservation & Recovery Act, follows a more recent spate of odor complaints and a public meeting in Mecca on April 28, 2011 where EPA officials heard directly from community members about the odors’ impacts on their health.

The EPA Administrative Order against Western Environmental and a related company, Waste Reduction Technologies, sets forth immediate measures and a schedule to control the source of odors from the Western Environmental facility. The order requires the facility to use stabilizing agents or cover sheeting on the stockpiled material to prevent the release of noxious air emissions.

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