Odor problem may be solved

DOWNEY - City staff met with three management representatives from the South Coast Air Quality Management District late last month to follow-up on AQMD actions in response to the suspicious odor problems that have been reported by city employees and community members.The odors typically have a rotten egg or sulfur smell. The source of the odors has been difficult to positively identify, however, the odors have been generated by workers at a nearby refinery when they clean a required filtering system. Each time there is a release of the sulfur material at the refinery, the city receives numerous complaints and calls for service. Due to the location of the refinery, the city has had limited enforcement options. Over the last few months, the refinery operations staff has designed a new cleaning procedure for their filtering system. Last week they tested the new process. AQMD staff was on-site and observed the work. The major change involves how the spent filter material is transferred from a large vertical tank into a waste material vessel. Previously, the material was moved manually by crews with shovels into a roll-off type material handling bin. Now the vertical tanks are off-loaded with a system of large diameter hoses and sprayers. This new procedure keeps most of the waste from coming into contact with the air. Once full, the waste material vessel is encapsulated and removed from the premises. There were no complaints while the new process was being performed. All parties involved in the remedy of the suspicious odor problem will continue to monitor the situation and to search for other best practices. The Downey Fire Department sends fire crews to investigate suspicious odor incidents immediately after problems are reported to the fire dispatch center. However, community members are also encouraged to call the Gas Company and the AQMD immediately when a suspicious odor is detected. The police and fire department communications centers usually receive numerous calls for service when a suspicious odor drifts through the city. Many callers have reported the odor smells like natural gas. Gas Company representatives recommend residents and business owners who believe they smell natural gas immediately call (800) 427-2200 and report their findings. Once notified, a Gas Company service person will investigate the problem. AQMD representatives recommend residents and business owners immediately call 1-800-CUT-SMOG (1-800-288-7664) to report any suspicious odors. They advise an investigator will respond after the receipt of one phone call during business hours. Residents can also file written complaints with the AQMD. The AQMD noted they follow up on public nuisance problems with citations when at least six residents report a problem to the AQMD. For all community members impacted by the suspicious odors, it is important to remember to follow-up on their experiences. While the first call may be to 911, the next call should be to (800) CUT-SMOG. The AQMD communication center staff specifically wants to hear from residents and to collect the names and addresses of those who are reporting the problem. AQMD investigators will then follow-up and visit each caller. Questions on the odor investigations in Downey can be directed to ready@downeyca.org.

********** Published: June 4, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 7