Information Resource Guide

Environment

Bacon, D. (2012, March 3). Imperial Valley Residents Must Fight for Right to Breathe Clean Air. New American Media. Retrieved from http://newamericamedia.org/2012/03/imperial-valley-residents-must-fight-for-right-to-breathe-clean-air.php.

The article details some of the prevalent problems residents of Seeley and Herber (two unincorporated communities in Imperial County) face, including poor public lighting, poor water access, and health-risks from air pollutants.

Several large-scale groups are mentioned in the article, including Policy Link and CRLA, as well as community-based groups like Seeley Citizens United, Comite Civico, and the Imperial County Environmental Justice Enforcement Task Force.

Megan Beaman is a lawyer at the CRLA Coachella office; she worked on this issue.

California Department of Toxic Substances Control. (2010). Western Environmental, Inc. Updates. Retrieved from http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/WEI.cfm

This website details some of the work EPA has done concerning WEI.

The website makes available several resources, including statistics about the plant’s hazardous waste output (5x more in 2009 than previous years), and charts about the waste the facility processes, including types and quantities.

California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (2010). Safe and Affordable Water for All. Annual Report, 2010, p. 12-23. Retrieved from http://www.crla.org/sites/all/files/content/uploads/AnnualReports/CRLA-AR10-Final.pdf

CRLA Annual Report includes profiles of key cases. Pages 12-13 discuss arsenic-contaminated water in Coachella and how property managers in the area overcharge residents for unused and unsafe water.

Briefly touches on how the community worked together to protest the situation. Includes quotes from Assembly Member Manuel Perez who authored legislation AB 2515 that would require the installation of certified filtration systems.

California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Toxic Substances Control. (2012). Evaluation Survey: Western Environmental, Inc. 62-150 Gene Welmas Drive, Mecca, California 92254. Retrieved from http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/upload/WEI_EvaluationSurveyReport_20120502.pdf

The report compiles several conclusions, recommendations, and files gathered from a DTS visit to WEI in 2011.

The report includes 19 recommendations (p. 12-17) for WEI.

Photographs of the facility can be found under Appendix B.

California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Toxic Substances Control. (2012). Executive Summary—Evaluation Survey: Western Environmental, Inc. 62-150 Gene Welmas Drive, Mecca, California 92254. Retrieved from http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/upload/WEI_ExecutiveSummaryEvaluationSurvey_20120502.pdf

The executive summary briefly details the results from the WEI evaluation survey, and concludes that the facility does not meet California hazardous waste requirements “in a number of significant areas.”

A more detailed account of the report can be found under the Evaluation Survey.

 

Coachella Valley Regional Water Management Group. (n.d.) Integrated Regional Water Management Planning. Retrieved from

http://www.cvrwmg.org/docs/2009_10_06_IRWM_Fact_Sheet.pdf

IRWM Planning is a process by which multiple agencies within a region work collaboratively to better the region’s water quality and supply in an inclusive way.

The management group includes the valley’s five water purveyors, who have come together to improve water resource planning and management for the entire region. Possible projects include: increasing water supply and improving water quality.

The website includes several service area maps on the communities served.

Danelski, D. (2012, January 17). Mecca: Tribe agrees to air quality rules. The Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA). Retrieved from http://www.pe.com/local-news/topics/topics-environment-headlines/20120117-mecca-tribe-agrees-to-air-quality-rules.ece

This article deals with the Cabazon tribe agreeing to comply with the SCAQMD’s 39 air quality rules following several complaints from the community.

Luis Olmedo from Comite Civico Del Valle points out that the agreement fails to affect facilities that are more than 50% owned by the tribe or Colmac Energy Inc, another plant on the Cabazon Tribe site in question.

EPA: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9 (Pacific Southwest). (2011). Unilateral Administrative Order: EPA Docket No. RCRA 7003-09-2011-003. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/region9/waste/enforcement/pdf/UAO-Consolidated-Tire.pdf

This Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) looks at the land owned by the Cabazon Tribe.

EPA approved the facility to hold 44,000 tires, but in May 11, 2011 they were informed it now held 90,000. A fire broke out on May 17, 2011 and made the facility a fire hazard concern.  The tribe issued a Notice of Violation and Order to Comply requiring the facility to address fire hazards.

Overall, the EPA determined that the facility is an imminent danger to human health and the environment.

Fox News, Latino. (2011, February 16). Foul, Grassy Odor in Mecca, California, May Be Sickening Residents. Retrieved from http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/health/2011/02/16/mystery-odor-mecca-california-sickening-residents/

This article was published 2 months after the reported illnesses occurred at Saul Martinez Elementary School, which continue to be problem.

The EPA was not convinced the blame fell entirely on the recycling plant.

Honoré, M. (2012, March 25). Mecca’s Misery, Chapter 5: Neighbors feel trapped. The Desert Sun. Retrieved from http://www.mydesert.com/article/20120325/NEWS07/203240353/Mecca-smell-odor-misery-neighbors-trapped-unbearable-Desert-Sun-investigation-iSun

The Desert Sun compiled the total number of smell complaints received by the South Coast Air Quality Management District between December 2010 and June 2011. The final total is 228. A table of the complaints can be found at http://cmsimg.gdn.mydesert.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=J1&Date=20120325&Category=NEWS07&ArtNo=203240353&Ref=AR&MaxW=300&Border=0&Mecca-smell-odor-misery-neighbors-trapped-unbearable-Desert-Sun-investigation-iSun

Neighboring communities report feeling “trapped” by the odors, which at times prevent them from opening windows and going outside. Some have complained to WEI, but employees would blame nearby agricultural fields.

The other company residing on the same plot of tribal land, Colmac Energy, fears WEI’s work might hurt their business. Unlike WEI, Colmac signed an air quality monitoring and enforcement agreement with AQMD, the Cabazon tribe, Riverside County and the Coachella Valley Association of Governments prior to starting operations. Colmac brought concerns to the tribe, but nothing has been done.

Honoré, M. (2012, March 25). Mecca’s Misery: ‘Unbearable Stench’ overwhelms desert town. The Desert Sun. Retrieved from http://www.mydesert.com/article/20120325/NEWS07/203240345/-UNBEARABLE-STENCH

The Desert Sun staff conducted its own investigation on WEI and reports the following:

Western has denied being the source of the smells reported by the surrounding community.

Western accepted the majority of its sewage between 2010 and 2011, “the same period that the smells reported by neighbors intensified.” Former workers say the plant took in “so much material it was impossible to treat it all.”

Former workers report becoming sick after working at the plant, and accidentally tearing the plastic lining beneath the plant, allowing chemicals to seep into the ground.

Honoré, M. (2012, March 25). Mecca’s Misery, Chapter 3: Western Environmental Inc. The Desert Sun. Retrieved from http://www.mydesert.com/article/20120325/NEWS07/203240347

Public records show that the DTSC's criminal division opened an investigation into Western's operation in December 2004, which ended in January 2010 with no action taken.

EPA officials say they have done unannounced inspections of the Western plant and taken samples but have not found any violations of federal law or the tribal permit.

Western has largely benefited from being on tribal lands; it has avoided a drawn-out permitting process and constant inspections, and has avoided paying state waste disposal fees, licensing fees or property taxes.

Western’s facility is suspected of being significantly cheaper than other facilities; “By choosing Western over the Kettleman Hills and Buttonwillow landfills, LAUSD saved nearly $1.9 million.”

Honoré, M. (2012, March 25). Mecca’s Misery, Chapter 4: Western Environmental Workers. The Desert Sun. Retrieved from http://www.mydesert.com/article/20120325/NEWS07/203240352/Mecca-smell-odor-misery-Western-Environmental-workers-headaches-Desert-Sun-investigation-iSun

Former workers of the plant report suffering from nausea, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms from the waste fumes.

The former workers claim they were poorly protected from the waste they were managing. At Kettleman Hills, another waste site, all hazardous waste transporters must wear coveralls, some type of respirator, gloves, goggles and glasses, steel toe boots and a hard hat, according to Waste Management's policies.

Using a Google satellite image from 2009, former workers indicate waste piles and estimate their height. The image can be found at http://cmsimg.gdn.mydesert.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=J1&Date=20120325&Category=NEWS07&ArtNo=203240352&Ref=AR&MaxW=300&Border=0&Mecca-smell-odor-misery-Western-Environmental-workers-headaches-Desert-Sun-investigation-iSun

Honoré, M. (2012, March 26). Soil report due in April for Western Environmental hazard treatment plant in Mecca. The Desert Sun. Retrieved from http://www.mydesert.com/article/20120326/NEWS08/203260327/Soil-report-due-next-month-Mecca-plant

An “exploratory survey” of the plant could determine if WEI continues operations in Mecca; increased environmental standards might prove to be too costly to continue operations.

The report might call for more stringent environmental standards, including a protecting groundwater with a double polythyline liner, and more wells to monitor groundwater.

Mark Patton, a WEI consulCalifornia Department of Toxic Substances Control. (2010). Western Environmental, Inc. Updates. Retrieved from http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/WEI.cfm

This website details some of the work EPA has done concerning WEI.

The website makes available several resources, including statistics about the plant’s hazardous waste output (5x more in 2009 than previous years), and charts about the waste the facility processes, including types and quantities.

California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (2010). Safe and Affordable Water for All. Annual Report, 2010, p. 12-23. Retrieved from http://www.crla.org/sites/all/files/content/uploads/AnnualReports/CRLA-AR10-Final.pdf

CRLA Annual Report includes profiles of key cases. Pages 12-13 discuss arsenic-contaminated water in Coachella and how property managers in the area overcharge residents for unused and unsafe water.

Briefly touches on how the community worked together to protest the situation. Includes quotes from Assembly Member Manuel Perez who authored legislation AB 2515 that would require the installation of certified filtration systems.

California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Toxic Substances Control. (2012). Evaluation Survey: Western Environmental, Inc. 62-150 Gene Welmas Drive, Mecca, California 92254. Retrieved from http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/upload/WEI_EvaluationSurveyReport_20120502.pdf

The report compiles several conclusions, recommendations, and files gathered from a DTS visit to WEI in 2011.

The report includes 19 recommendations (p. 12-17) for WEI.

Photographs of the facility can be found under Appendix B.

California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Toxic Substances Control. (2012). Executive Summary—Evaluation Survey: Western Environmental, Inc. 62-150 Gene Welmas Drive, Mecca, California 92254. Retrieved from http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/upload/WEI_ExecutiveSummaryEvaluationSurvey_20120502.pdf

The executive summary briefly details the results from the WEI evaluation survey, and concludes that the facility does not meet California hazardous waste requirements “in a number of significant areas.”

A more detailed account of the report can be found under the Evaluation Survey.

 

Coachella Valley Regional Water Management Group. (n.d.) Integrated Regional Water Management Planning. Retrieved from

http://www.cvrwmg.org/docs/2009_10_06_IRWM_Fact_Sheet.pdf

IRWM Planning is a process by which multiple agencies within a region work collaboratively to better the region’s water quality and supply in an inclusive way.

The management group includes the valley’s five water purveyors, who have come together to improve water resource planning and management for the entire region. Possible projects include: increasing water supply and improving water quality.

The website includes several service area maps on the communities served.

Danelski, D. (2012, January 17). Mecca: Tribe agrees to air quality rules. The Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA). Retrieved from http://www.pe.com/local-news/topics/topics-environment-headlines/20120117-mecca-tribe-agrees-to-air-quality-rules.ece

This article deals with the Cabazon tribe agreeing to comply with the SCAQMD’s 39 air quality rules following several complaints from the community.

Luis Olmedo from Comite Civico Del Valle points out that the agreement fails to affect facilities that are more than 50% owned by the tribe or Colmac Energy Inc, another plant on the Cabazon Tribe site in question.

EPA: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9 (Pacific Southwest). (2011). Unilateral Administrative Order: EPA Docket No. RCRA 7003-09-2011-003. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/region9/waste/enforcement/pdf/UAO-Consolidated-Tire.pdf

This Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) looks at the land owned by the Cabazon Tribe.

EPA approved the facility to hold 44,000 tires, but in May 11, 2011 they were informed it now held 90,000. A fire broke out on May 17, 2011 and made the facility a fire hazard concern.  The tribe issued a Notice of Violation and Order to Comply requiring the facility to address fire hazards.

Overall, the EPA determined that the facility is an imminent danger to human health and the environment.

Fox News, Latino. (2011, February 16). Foul, Grassy Odor in Mecca, California, May Be Sickening Residents. Retrieved from http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/health/2011/02/16/mystery-odor-mecca-california-sickening-residents/

This article was published 2 months after the reported illnesses occurred at Saul Martinez Elementary School, which continue to be problem.

The EPA was not convinced the blame fell entirely on the recycling plant.

Honoré, M. (2012, March 25). Mecca’s Misery, Chapter 5: Neighbors feel trapped. The Desert Sun. Retrieved from http://www.mydesert.com/article/20120325/NEWS07/203240353/Mecca-smell-odor-misery-neighbors-trapped-unbearable-Desert-Sun-investigation-iSun

The Desert Sun compiled the total number of smell complaints received by the South Coast Air Quality Management District between December 2010 and June 2011. The final total is 228. A table of the complaints can be found at http://cmsimg.gdn.mydesert.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=J1&Date=20120325&Category=NEWS07&ArtNo=203240353&Ref=AR&MaxW=300&Border=0&Mecca-smell-odor-misery-neighbors-trapped-unbearable-Desert-Sun-investigation-iSun

Neighboring communities report feeling “trapped” by the odors, which at times prevent them from opening windows and going outside. Some have complained to WEI, but employees would blame nearby agricultural fields.

The other company residing on the same plot of tribal land, Colmac Energy, fears WEI’s work might hurt their business. Unlike WEI, Colmac signed an air quality monitoring and enforcement agreement with AQMD, the Cabazon tribe, Riverside County and the Coachella Valley Association of Governments prior to starting operations. Colmac brought concerns to the tribe, but nothing has been done.

Honoré, M. (2012, March 25). Mecca’s Misery: ‘Unbearable Stench’ overwhelms desert town. The Desert Sun. Retrieved from http://www.mydesert.com/article/20120325/NEWS07/203240345/-UNBEARABLE-STENCH

The Desert Sun staff conducted its own investigation on WEI and reports the following:

Western has denied being the source of the smells reported by the surrounding community.

Western accepted the majority of its sewage between 2010 and 2011, “the same period that the smells reported by neighbors intensified.” Former workers say the plant took in “so much material it was impossible to treat it all.”

Former workers report becoming sick after working at the plant, and accidentally tearing the plastic lining beneath the plant, allowing chemicals to seep into the ground.

Honoré, M. (2012, March 25). Mecca’s Misery, Chapter 3: Western Environmental Inc. The Desert Sun. Retrieved from http://www.mydesert.com/article/20120325/NEWS07/203240347

Public records show that the DTSC's criminal division opened an investigation into Western's operation in December 2004, which ended in January 2010 with no action taken.

EPA officials say they have done unannounced inspections of the Western plant and taken samples but have not found any violations of federal law or the tribal permit.

Western has largely benefited from being on tribal lands; it has avoided a drawn-out permitting process and constant inspections, and has avoided paying state waste disposal fees, licensing fees or property taxes.

Western’s facility is suspected of being significantly cheaper than other facilities; “By choosing Western over the Kettleman Hills and Buttonwillow landfills, LAUSD saved nearly $1.9 million.”

Honoré, M. (2012, March 25). Mecca’s Misery, Chapter 4: Western Environmental Workers. The Desert Sun. Retrieved from http://www.mydesert.com/article/20120325/NEWS07/203240352/Mecca-smell-odor-misery-Western-Environmental-workers-headaches-Desert-Sun-investigation-iSun

Former workers of the plant report suffering from nausea, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms from the waste fumes.

The former workers claim they were poorly protected from the waste they were managing. At Kettleman Hills, another waste site, all hazardous waste transporters must wear coveralls, some type of respirator, gloves, goggles and glasses, steel toe boots and a hard hat, according to Waste Management's policies.

Using a Google satellite image from 2009, former workers indicate waste piles and estimate their height. The image can be found at http://cmsimg.gdn.mydesert.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=J1&Date=20120325&Category=NEWS07&ArtNo=203240352&Ref=AR&MaxW=300&Border=0&Mecca-smell-odor-misery-Western-Environmental-workers-headaches-Desert-Sun-investigation-iSun

Honoré, M. (2012, March 26). Soil report due in April for Western Environmental hazard treatment plant in Mecca. The Desert Sun. Retrieved from http://www.mydesert.com/article/20120326/NEWS08/203260327/Soil-report-due-next-month-Mecca-plant

An “exploratory survey” of the plant could determine if WEI continues operations in Mecca; increased environmental standards might prove to be too costly to continue operations.

The report might call for more stringent environmental standards, including a protecting groundwater with a double polythyline liner, and more wells to monitor groundwater.

Mark Patton, a WEI consultant, doesn’t believe the plants will be asked to add an extra liner layer because it's a “hazardous waste treatment facility, and not a permanent landfill,” although, according to DTSC officials, a double liner has been a California standard for 25 years.

South Coast Air Quality Management District. (2011, April 1). Odor Investigation and Air Sampling in Mecca, CA. Retrieved from http://www.aqmd.gov/tao/Mecca/MeccaOdorStudy.htm

“The AQMD has identified Western Environmental, Inc. and their co-owned adjacent facility, Waste Reduction Technologies, as the primary source of the odors.”

“There have been no elevated levels of toxic pollutants detected in the community. However, there are still known health impacts resulting from exposure to strong and objectionable odors, and the AQMD takes these health impacts seriously.”tant, doesn’t believe the plants will be asked to add an extra liner layer because it's a “hazardous waste treatment facility, and not a permanent landfill,” although, according to DTSC officials, a double liner has been a California standard for 25 years.

South Coast Air Quality Management District. (2011, April 1). Odor Investigation and Air Sampling in Mecca, CA. Retrieved from http://www.aqmd.gov/tao/Mecca/MeccaOdorStudy.htm

“The AQMD has identified Western Environmental, Inc. and their co-owned adjacent facility, Waste Reduction Technologies, as the primary source of the odors.”

“There have been no elevated levels of toxic pollutants detected in the community. However, there are still known health impacts resulting from exposure to strong and objectionable odors, and the AQMD takes these health impacts seriously.”

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