Tribe, Government Sign Agreement to Enforce Mecca Air Qualilty
A new agreement between the Air Quality Management District and the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians could mean fresher air for the community of Mecca.
It was a little over a year ago that students and teachers started getting sick from foul odors at Saul Martinez Elementary School.
The cause was elusive, prompting elected officials and environmental advocates to track down the sickening smells.
Nauseau, headaches, throat aches plagued students and teachers at Saul Martinez Elementary, and the Mecca community.
"One day I told my husband, well it smells kind of weird, did we leave something spoil in the car, and he said no it's outside, and that's when I started noticing," said Mecca resident, Noemi Delgado.
An investigation into the cause began.
"And then people comment that their breathing things like, different customers because they come in here sometimes and they'll tell me about things like that," said Delgado.
In May, the EPA ordered Western Environmental, a recycling company, to stop taking waste.
In June, Senator Barbara Boxer, EPA officials and environmental advocate, Erin Brokovich came to Mecca.
In August, Western Environmental gave us a tour to show us what they changed.
"(There are) longer periods of time with no smell, and it's easier to enjoy the desert," said North Shore resident, Sabrina Lawson.
But Mecca residents say some smells persist.
Now a government to government agreement is signed to enforce air quality in the entire industrial park near Mecca.
"I brought the Chairman down and said lets all sit down and see if their isn't some further effort we can do together, this is a result of those conversations," said Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit.
The agreement establishes an air sampling, monitoring and enforcement procedure for the 640 acre park.
"Certainly the hope is going forward we will be able to monitor the existing business and any new business in this area in a fashion that might prevent similar problems in the future," said Benoit, who is also an Air Quality Management District governing board member.
The agreement may help Mecca residents breathe a bit easier.
"Yeah I think anything to improve the environment and people's living conditions is good," said Lawson.
Western Environmental said in a statement that this agreement is a positive step, but also added that they've never been found out of compliance with standards they've been asked to maintain.
A meeting about the air quality agreement will be held Thursday at 5 PM at Saul Martinez Elementary School in Mecca.