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Neighbors tour Brawley Beef

May 02, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — The stink coming from the beef-processing plant here may not be a non-issue quite yet.

Just when the odors will cease for those living close to the plant was a question that could not be answered Wednesday during a tour of the facility organized for area residents.

Leading the tour was Bill Harrison of Guepard Energy Inc. of San Diego, a company hired by the city of Brawley to provide construction management services for the upgrade of the city's wastewater plant.

While working for the city, Harrison volunteered to oversee the installation of equipment to finish work on the beef plant's wastewater system.


During Wednesday's tour, Harrison said the equipment is in place, which means his work is done. However, he said there are bacterial processes that still must develop and that could take time, perhaps until July.

When asked when residents can expect the odor to disappear, Harrison said that is a question he cannot answer. He did say the odor should cease once all bacterial processes in the plant's three wastewater ponds are fully operational.

He said if the odors do not cease, there is a problem with the process and the owners of Brawley Beef are going to have to address that.

A number of local residents took part in the tour and were joined by an official from the county's Air Pollution Control District, which has issued an abatement order against Brawley Beef forcing the company to address the odors.

For some taking the tour, what they saw and what they smelled did little to alleviate their concerns.

There was a noticeable stench, particularly near the second of the plant's three ponds, prompting those on the tour to cover their noses. Even Jeanette Monroy, deputy officer of the APCD, was holding her nose.

Referring to an article in this newspaper Wednesday in which Greg Beck, president and chief operating officer of Brawley Beef, said the odor is a "non-issue, Monroy said, "The guy who said it was a non-issue wasn't standing here."

Monroy said in standing around the ponds, it was clear the foul odor was coming from the second and third pond in the three-lagoon wastewater system.

She did temper her statements by adding Brawley Beef officials "might be on the right path" in addressing the odors.

Harrison said the goal in bringing residents to the plant was to show what Brawley Beef is doing to deal with the odors, not to prove the odors are no longer a problem.

"The goal was to see the effort put forth by Brawley Beef to be a good neighbor," Harrison said. "They weren't promised the odor wouldn't be here today."

Some residents said they do not think the odor will ever go away.

"I get this smell every single night," said resident Blanca Carmona, who lives on Duarte Street south of the plant. She said what she wants is for the plant owners to put it in writing that the odors will cease.

Hugo Dominguez, who lives on River Drive, said, "We were promised by the city of Brawley there would not be any odors. That's why there was no opposition."

Frank Valadez, who lives on River Drive, said, "They are making money and we are paying the consequences."

Residents also voiced concern that odors could be coming from other sections of the plant, including tanks inside the facility temporarily being used to collect fat.

Residents pointed to a liquid substance under two tanks as being fat and grease that has spilled. Company officials said the tanks are only there temporarily and staffers are cleaning the area throughout the day.

Harrison, who spoke to a reporter and a resident after the tour, said Brawley Beef officials have been taken by surprise by the level of the odors.

He said, "They should have been pro-active in managing the entire project by hiring a professional construction manager."

Harrison pointed out in his opinion the company received bad advice in the construction of the facility in relation to the wastewater facilities.

He said, for example, company officials were told the fat in the wastewater ponds would create a natural cover and that would block odors.

"In a cold climate that is true," Harrison said, adding in a hot climate the same does not hold true.

Harrison said he wants to see the beef plant succeed, adding it is important for the community. Area residents said they also want the plant to succeed, but they do not want to pay such a price.

Wednesday's tour was the second time residents have come together in an informal setting to discuss the odor. The first was a week ago when a meeting was conducted with residents and APCD officials at the Brawley Chamber of Commerce.

Another meeting will be staged in the Brawley chamber Wednesday. A time has not been set, but Monroy said it likely will be 5 p.m.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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