Thursday, October 18, 2007-
Neighborhood activists are pressing local pollution officials to more vigorously enforce Louisville's odor-control regulations.
Members and supporters of the group Rubbertown Emergency Action
yesterday called on the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District
to base a compliance officer closer to western Louisville chemical
The group said the district should keep a
compliance officer on duty -- as opposed to on call -- overnight and on
weekends, when neighbors say they often notice more emissions. And they
asked why it has taken more than three years for the district to buy
mobile air-monitoring equipment.
"We just want you to enforce the laws on
the books," said Gracie Lewis, a western Louisville resident, at the
Air Pollution Control Board meeting yesterday.
The pollution exacerbates her chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, she said, adding that when she calls the
air pollution district to report a strong odor -- especially during
evening hours -- officials don't respond until the next day. By then,
she said, it's too late.
Johnny Hill, an assistant professor of
theology at the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, told the
board that he was "appalled" by the quality of air in western
Louisville. "This issue is at the center of many, many issues that
continue to plague" that part of the city
It's the second time this year that Louisville residents have complained about district enforcement of odor regulations.
Earlier, it was people who lived in the
Butchertown neighborhood who leveled complaints about the district's
handling of smells -- in that case, from the Swift meat processing
After yesterday's meeting, Art Williams,
the district's director, defended his staff's odor enforcement efforts,
while agreeing to review Rubbertown Emergency Action's recommendations.
He plugged the city's nationally recognized
Strategic Toxic Air Reduction program, adopted in 2005, saying it is
reducing harmful chemical emissions. But he also acknowledged confusion
over which authorities people should call to report air pollution
He said if people feel there's a public
health emergency, they should first call metro government's 911 system,
which would coordinate an emergency response, 24 hours a day. Other
complaints about air quality should be made to the district by calling
574-6000, he said. After regular work hours, air quality complaints
made to the district are directed to a staff member who carries a cell
phone and decides whether an emergency exists and a call to 911 is
warranted, Williams said.
He acknowledged the district doesn't
routinely send compliance officers to investigate smells after work
hours in part because of staffing constraints. But he said they follow
up with investigations.
Rubbertown Emergency Action for several
years has called for a more rapid response to episodes of strong odors,
which can be associated with leaks or malfunctions at chemical plants.
Sometimes, weather conditions can hold emissions closer to the ground.
Eboni Cochran, one of the group's leaders,
cited as an example an odor complaint to the district made by her
mother on the evening of Sept. 13. She said the district didn't send a
compliance officer to investigate. Later that evening, the group's own
air sampling found excessive levels of several regulated chemicals,
including the carcinogen 1,3-butadiene, she said.
"If the pollution control board came out and investigated, they could actually cite someone," Cochran said.
Williams said he'd look into the events of Sept. 13 and report back to the air pollution board next month.
Williams acknowledged difficulties finding
equipment that was sensitive enough to meet the city's needs, but he
said his staff has settled on a product and will buy it within the next
Reporter James Bruggers can be reached at (502) 582-4645.