IRVINE, California. – A group of Irvine residents gathered outside City Hall on May 25 to protest various issues, including some related to an asphalt plant.
Various activist groups took part in the rally, which was organized by Stop Toxic Asphalt Pollutants (STAP), an Irvine-based organization that works to alleviate the smell of burnt rubber. Members of the group said they were concerned about the health effects of air pollution from All American Asphalt, which is located near Irvine neighborhoods such as Orchard Hills.
Kim Konte, leading the charges against the pollutants, said she was tired of being ignored by Irvine City Council over an issue that affects multiple neighborhoods and causes health problems.
“We’re caught in a bad movie right now,” Konte told The Epoch Times. “Our problem is really a public health crisis that some of our advisors at UCI and others have in connection with the Flint Michigan water crisis, where our elected officials are not taking action on an issue for which they are responsible. You took an oath to protect public health and safety. “
The University of California-Irvine (UCI) donated STAP air quality sensors, said Konte, who added that data later retrieved from the devices showed that the air was contaminated.
Irvine residents affected by the facility said they felt betrayed by Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan and Vice Mayor Tammy Kim. Konte said they stood up for a promise to work to fix the issues.
“Everyone is waiting to see if we can do something or if people will move this summer,” said Konte. “We will no longer allow these toxins to harm our children’s health. It’s scary to see the data we’ve collected … It’s data that our UCI consultants, who are experts in air sampling and volatile organic compounds, have reviewed and analyzed. “
The problem goes beyond smells; Konte said some people who live near the facility get nosebleeds, headaches, stinging eyes, and burning throats. Orchard Hills is now referred to as “Orchard Kills,” she added.
One of the main challenges concerns a policy that Irvine City Council passed last December, Konte said. The policy requires the assistance of two councilors or the mayor to put an item on the agenda of the public meeting.
Konte said that councilor Larry Agran, who is helping fix the issue, is stuck because he cannot get a second councilor to endorse the item.
Meanwhile, Kim told The Epoch Times that despite doing everything possible for voters, she is being wrongly attacked in the situation.
“When I was elected, I looked into the subject as promised and found it to be very complicated and very complex,” said Kim. “I learned that Irvine City is in a lawsuit against the number one asphalt company. Number two what I learned is that the City of Irvine actually has no control over anything air related. It only has control over zoning and so on, but any toxins or anything in the area [controlled by the South Coast Air Quality Management District] AQMD. “
Kim said she sent a letter to the district asking to hold a public session on the matter, which it did in December. Despite the data that STAP claims to have, the result of the meeting was inconclusive, as no consistent data could be displayed.
When asked about the lawsuit, Kim said she couldn’t reveal many details, but the city was trying to shut down the facility.
Kim said she also introduced the group to her own environmental advisory team, made up of well-known professors and scientists in the field of environmental sustainability. However, she said the STAP group never responded to the introduction.
All American Asphalt did not respond in a timely manner to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.