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USA - Foundry odor dispute continues

The lengthy air-quality dispute between an El Monte-based iron foundry and the South Coast Air Quality Management District may not be resolved until the end of the year or later, officials said Thursday.

Gregg Industries Inc. has been in legal proceedings with the AQMD since the beginning of August over an order to reduce odors allegedly coming from its plant.

AQMD filed the abatement order against Gregg Industries after citing it with 11 notices of violation for nuisance odors and other air quality violations since 2005. Three of the notices of violation have been made since April, AQMD General Counsel Kurt Wiese said.

A handful of daylong hearings have been held so far during which the AQMD has presented its case before the agency's hearing board, which is authorized by the state to oversee AQMD cases.

Once the agency is finished, Gregg Industries will present its case and the board will deliberate publicly before making a decision.

Because the board hears several cases simultaneously, hearings in the case are scheduled through December. Hearings scheduled for this week were postponed because of other cases before the board, Wiese said.

The AQMD has received more than 500 odor complaints about Gregg Industries since 2000, the majority in the past three years, spokesman Sam Atwood said.

Gregg Industries representative Adan Ortega said most of the odors emitted from the plant were eliminated in 2005 and 2006 through an earlier abatement order. The company also maintains the complaints are coming from a handful of detractors and the majority of its neighbors support the plant and the 380 jobs it creates.

Atwood agreed the initial odor was removed, but said it was masking a second odor that now must be addressed.

"Our goal is to convince the board to impose measures that eliminate the nuisance problems at Gregg. We don't want to go through this again. We think that the nuisance problem at Gregg has existed for too long," Wiese said.

The complaints have come from at least 30 people and AQMD inspectors must verify from the site of the complaint that the odor is occurring.

Gregg Industries already has suffered from an uncertain regulatory environment, Ortega said.

"Our contention is that the abatement order would put the company out of business, that the threat would create such egregious constraints that this company wouldn't be able to function," he said.

The company recently laid off more than 30 people, but officials said the layoffs were related to seasonal changes and the economic downturn, not the legal proceedings.

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