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Community Speaks Out on New Measures to Stop Toxic Smell

Angela Monroe

Community Speaks Out on New Measures to Stop Toxic Smell

CREATED Jan. 19, 2012

The Cabazon Band of Mission Indians and the Air Quality Management District are working on an historic agreement they say will freshen the air.
But some Mecca residents aren't convinced.
Some tense moments at Thursday's meeting-- air quality officials saying the agreement will help, but many residents say there are loopholes.
It was a little over a year ago that smells sickened many in the community of Mecca.
"As a person who lives in this community and who has experienced everything that we have experienced in the past year, this is not insurance to me," said Mecca resident, Cecilia Garcia.
Air quality officials say this process is also about building trust.
"For the Cabazon band to build trust, further trust with this community, for them them to build trust with the AQMD, and for them in this experiment in essense, to have us build trust with them," said AQMD Executive Officer, Barry Wallerstein.
Because the Cabazon tribe is a sovereign nation, they don't have to abide by the rules of state.
So air quality officials say the agreement is an unprecendented move.
"We need to keep that in mind, what they're giving up, what the current status is, and what the status is everywhere else, it is a big step forward," said Riverside County Supervisor, John Benoit.
"While we appreciate the openess of the tribe to allow you in, there was a lot of mays in the agreement as opposed to shall," said Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent, Dr. Daryl Adams.
"Why do you have an agreement with them if they say may, I may do this, I may not," Dr. Adams went on to ask.
Air quality attorneys responded, "I think if you read the agreement you'll be assured, there's much more certainty in it."
South Coast Air Quality Managment District said the foul smells came from Western Environmental.
Since then changes have been made at that recycling center, but some residents say its not enough.
"As long as those lands are there, the contamination will continue," said Mecca resident, Jesus Perez.
"The AQMD does not have the ability to tell a company to move," replied Wallerstein.
But many in the community don't trust that this agreement is air-tight enough to stop the sickening smells.
"I have the feeling that it's going to get there that eventually its going to be breached because there is a history in the Coachella Valley where there has been dirty industries who have come to the corridor of the Eastern Coachella Valley," said another Mecca resident.
While the tribe has signed the agreement, the air quality district has not yet.
Once they do, they plan to hold another community meeting.