Since 2019, more than 1,200 complaints have been filed from residents in north Irvine regarding toxic emissions that spew every day from the All American Asphalt plant. And in January, the State’s regulatory agency — South Coast Air Quality Management District — issued two new public nuisance violations against the asphalt plant. (There have now been six citations for air quality violations issued against the asphalt plant over the past two years.)
Construction of the asphalt plant was approved by the Orange County Supervisors back in 1993 before the property became part of the City Irvine. Years later, homes were built within a mile of the factory.
In 2019, the South Coast Air Quality Management District allowed the asphalt plant to dramatically increase production. Within months of that decision, nearby residents began smelling noxious odors and experiencing health issues. When the residents began looking for the cause of the odors, they realized they were living in close proximity to the asphalt plant. (Residents in the area say that the existence of the asphalt plant was not disclosed when they purchased their homes.)
Since late 2019, residents in north Irvine have expressed frustration with the City’s weak response and inability to provide any meaningful relief.
Hundreds of north Irvine families continue to express concerns regarding the health risks associated with living so close to a plant that emits known human carcinogens. All American Asphalt is the single largest air polluting business in Irvine. The plant emits 8 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOC), 221 pounds of benzene, and nearly 1,800 pounds of formaldehyde per year. (Both benzene and formaldehyde are known human carcinogens.)
Two community groups — Non-Toxic Neighborhoods and the Stop Toxic Asphalt Pollutants in Irvine — have been leading the charge advocating on behalf of the affected residents.
On the City side, former Irvine Mayor and current Councilmember Larry Agran has repeatedly called for the City of Irvine to take bold legal action to shut the asphalt plant down in Irvine and relocate it to a safer, remote location.
In fact, Councilmember Agran submitted a memo requesting that the City Council “authorize and direct the retention of Special Counsel to help prosecute existing City litigation, to seek immediate judicial relief to shut down the All American Asphalt plant in North Irvine, and to provide other appropriate relief to safeguard the public health.”
However, his Council colleagues have kept Agran’s memo off the Council agenda by refusing to support it. (The Mayor has implemented her “Rule of Two” which requires that Councilmembers receive support from another member of the Council in order to add an item to the Council agenda.)
For most of last year, the Mayor and City Council took a hands-off approach, asserting that the City lacks jurisdiction and authority to deal directly with the toxic emissions that spew from the asphalt plant every day. While Councilmember Agran — a Harvard Law School graduate and respected public interest attorney — has repeatedly advocated strong action to relocate the plant away from homes, his Council colleagues have often balked. In fact, Councilmember Anthony Kuo told the Voice of OC last fall: “I think in the eyes of some residents nothing we do will ever satisfy them absent shutting down the plant, which the City’s position is we’re not in a position to do that.”
Former UCI Law Professor and current State Senator Dave Min disagrees with Kuo’s assessment, aligning himself with Agran on the City’s legal ability to do more. Last month, Senator Min sent a detailed letter to the City Council — disputing Kuo’s claims that there is little the City of Irvine can do to help our residents. Senator Min wrote: “The City of Irvine possesses broad and sweeping authority to act immediately and decisively in addressing the problems created by the AAA plant.”