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Our Opinion: Tackle the stink

May 04, 2002

As important as Brawley Beef is for the economy of the Imperial Valley, the plant's neighbors have been paying a high price for that success.

The plant's byproducts produce a stench that has proved intolerable for some neighbors and, while the odor gradually is lessening, it continues to be a problem.

Plant officials say eventually the smell will cease; but will it ever completely go away?

When it comes to beef-processing plants — where a portion of the work deals with the slaughter of cattle — odors are a part of the business.

When the project was proposed, city officials and those working on the deal made promises they perhaps should not have made, including that odors would not be an issue. Those familiar with the cattle industry should have known odors might be an issue, at least in the early stages of the beef plant operation. That should have been shared with residents so that they could know what they would be facing.

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Because it wasn't and people are upset. They were told there wouldn't be a smell associated with the plant, but there is. And it lingers. Perhaps residents would have been more patient if a realistic timeline had been set for the period it would take to deal with the odors.

On the other hand, while they might have expected some odors associated with the facility, perhaps none of those involved could have known how bad of a stench there would be.

We agree with Bill Harrison, a construction manager working on Brawley's wastewater plant who volunteered his time to help finish the beef plant's wastewater facility. Harrison said in his opinion Brawley Beef LLC was taken by surprise by the level of the odors and that the company could have been more pro-active in preventing the problem.

What's done is done. The fact remains that there is a problem and Brawley Beef is attempting to deal with it. We think the odors can be weakened so that the issue will not be such a problem for residents, but it will take time.

We want to see the beef plant succeed. It already has brought jobs and money into the Imperial Valley, and we foresee more to come.

We do not want the odor issue to overshadow the positives of the beef plant, but still it must be dealt with. The recent tour of the plant's wastewater ponds for residents was a good idea and we recommend Brawley Beef continue to give such tours and be open with the public.

That kind of openness is important to build support and to start to create a comfort level for the community.

We believe Brawley Beef officials when they say they want to be good neighbors. To do that, they must continue to communicate with their neighbors. By working with the community, Brawley Beef can succeed and perhaps no one will have to pay a price. Someday soon, we hope, residents will be able to live near the beef plant without the overbearing unpleasant stench permeating their neighborhood.

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