South Kern Sol, News Report, Alfredo Camacho
Lamont, Calif. — Community Recycling and Resource Center (CRRR), is in the process of changing ownership. The prospective owner, Recology, is an employee-owned recycling and solid waste resource recovery company that promises to overhaul operations, training, and possibly staff at the plant after the sale is complete. In an effort to build better community ties, Recology is looking for input from South Kern residents.
CRRR has been embroiled in controversy since the pollution-related death of two young employees, Eladio and Armando Ramirez, in 2011. The two brothers inhaled hydrogen-sulfide while trying to clear a blockage and died.
The day after Eladio’s death, on Nov. 15, 2011, the Kern County Board of Supervisors issued a $2.3 million fine on the company and revoked its Conditional Use Permit based on numerous violations, including failure to develop an Odor Management Plan from 1993 to 2007 and processing unauthorized materials, among others.
Recology, which will changing the name of the plant to Blossom Valley Organics, say that one of the key problems they will be addressing is the notorious odor problem.
“We do daily odor monitoring to know what’s making odor and to reduce it,” said a spokesman for the company during a Dec. 15 presentation at the David Head Center. “We monitor for odor in a five-mile radius and take into consideration things like temperature or wind.”
According to the spokesman, community members are also encouraged to contact the plant manager with odor complaints to assist in data collection.
The company also plans to mitigate dust and litter as well.
But before the sale can be finalized, the Lamont Public Utility District’s Board of Trustees, which has been leasing land for Community Recycling to treat waste water for composting since 1993, must approve the transfer to the new owner. LPUD will begin to meet in early January to decide on whether or not to approve the transfer, according to LPUD general manager Nick Turner. These meetings will be closed to the public.
In all, Turner welcomes their new lessee.
“The idea of a new green composting owner can only be a good thing for the community,” said Turner. “If they transfer ownership we hope they implement everything they talk about: reducing impact on the environment and improving the lives of those who live close to the facility.”
Residents are more reticent about the new owner. Jose L Mireles of Lamont, a long-time resident of Lamont, says he’s seen companies come and go that make similar promises but fail to deliver.
“The presentation was fine but as they say, ‘words are carried away by the wind,’” said Mireles. “All companies, when they want to move in, make promises but don’t follow through: it’s a pattern.”
Mireles, a disabled welder, is part of Padres Socios, a committee of parents who work with schools and the community to improve the community. When asked what might improve relations between the plant and the community, Mireles said air quality and worker safety were on the top of his list.
“Arvin and Lamont have terrible air quality but also worker safety,” he said. “If those workers who died had been the children of the boss or owner, it would have been handled far differently.”
Mireles would also like to see greater assistance to the community (one community member during the Dec. 15 meeting suggested donating compost to area community gardens), but also suggests that residents hold Recology to its word about their recently announced open door policy.
“I think we need to follow them closely. As they said their doors are always open, so we should go in and test to see if it’s real. We should put pressure on them to keep to their word about reducing odor, using newer trucks to reduce emissions,” said Mireles.
Recology will be having a second community meeting on January 8 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the David Head Center in Lamont.