Petition calls for regulation, air pollution controls at Berkeley Asphalt

Photo of Berkeley Asphalt
Eliana Marcu/Staff
A petition from Clean AIR Berkeley is calling for air pollution to be regulated following concerns over sulfur-like odors that were traced back to a Berkeley Asphalt facility in West Berkeley. The petition is being used to demonstrate to city of Berkeley officials the community's concerns about the pollution.

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Clean AIR Berkeley created a petition in January calling for regulations on air pollution from Berkeley Asphalt after residents complained of sulfur-like odors.

The odors were reported to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, or BAAQMD, and eventually traced back to the Berkeley Asphalt facility in West Berkeley, according to spokesperson Erin DeMerritt. Clean AIR Berkeley is pushing for air pollution control systems to be installed at the site and Berkeley Asphalt’s compliance with a legal settlement established in 1999 to address pollution concerns, according to the petition.

“The settlement has a bunch of requirements for pollution controls and though it’s been over 20 years, many of those pollution controls have yet to be installed,” said Clean AIR Berkeley community organizer Mike Perlmutter. “Instead Berkeley Asphalt has increased their productions, the city has let it happen and the pollution has gotten worse.”

Berkeley Asphalt was contacted for comment but did not respond as of press time.

Clean AIR Berkeley is using the petition to show city officials, including Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Berkeley City Council members, that many people care about the pollution at Berkeley Asphalt, Perlmutter added.

Perlmutter noted that because BAAQMD is complaint-driven, it is up to residents to get their attention and solve pollution issues. He added that the city of Berkeley and BAAQMD need to better enforce regulations.

“Berkeley prides itself on sustainability and talks about community, but when it comes to regulating this particular corporate citizen, it has not done its job,” Perlmutter said. “So we’ve been trying to draw the attention of city officials to that problem.”

He also said asphalt plant emissions are dangerous and added that emissions can cause birth defects, respiratory illnesses and other community health implications.

Berkeley Asphalt is required by BAAQMD to test biennially for byproduct emissions including particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, according to DeMerritt. Data from the California Air Resources Board showed that the plant emitted 6.7 tons of particulate matter in 2018.

“The facility conducted its most recent testing last November, and results showed they were in compliance with the applicable regulations,” DeMerritt said. “However, the VOCs had to be retested and results are still pending.”

BAAQMD has issued four public nuisance violations to Berkeley Asphalt in the past few months, DeMerritt noted. She added that there were no prior major enforcement issues with the facility.

In order to mitigate the sulfur-like odors and emissions, Berkeley Asphalt is currently installing a blue smoke control system. DeMerritt said in an email the system would collect and abate asphalt smoke at the storage silos and truck loading areas.

“This is all stuff that has real community health implications, environmental implications and climate change implications,” Perlmutter said. “If we can’t get it right in Berkeley, California, where can we get it right?”

Contact Vani Suresh at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @vanisuresh_.