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Barrio Logan residents want pungent smell eliminated

Barrio Logan residents gathered petition signatures on Tuesday evening, hoping local air quality regulators will work to stop the smell coming from a biofuels plant.

The Newton Avenue facility has been operating in the neighborhood since 2008 and it turns cooking oil into diesel fuel.

But one by-product of that environmentally friendly process is a noxious smell that blankets nearby homes.

“It’s bad enough where the quality of life that we have here is just terrible,” said Miquel Espinosa, the resident manager of the Barrio Senior Villas Apartments.

The two-story complex is across the street from a New Leaf Biofuels plant.

“We can’t have family members over,” Espinosa said. “We can’t come outside, even to water plants.”

Espinosa is not worried that the smell is dangerous to his health, but he said the odor is so pungent that some residents get nauseous.

Residents in the complex he manages and lives in were forced to make difficult decisions during a recent heatwave.

“My tenants, they’re seniors,” Espinosa said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have any air conditioning here so it’s either open the window and put up with the smell or close the window and put up with the heat.”

New Leaf Biofuels has operated in Barrio Logan since 2008. The company had a downturn in business during the pandemic because restaurant traffic dried up, but they recently expanded and are looking to grow even more.

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Erik Anderson
/
KPBS
New Leaf Biofuel in Barrio Logan is under fire from neigbors complaining about the smell is produces on Oct. 5, 2022

“We pride ourselves on being good neighbors of Barrio Logan,” said New Leaf Biofuel President and CEO Jennifer Case in a prepared statement. “It’s been our home for more than 15 years to produce safe and environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil fuels without incident.”

The company touts the environmental benefits of its biofuel saying it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent, compared to the fossil fuel it replaces.

The plant runs around the clock accepting used cooking oil from local businesses and making it fuel for cars and trucks.

“As such, we empathize with the concerns local residents have recently expressed and are working with local regulators to address them as quickly as possible,” said Case.

San Diego County’s Air Pollution Control District got 18 complaints about the stench between November of 2021 and August of this year.

The Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) is gathering signatures on a petition to ask regulators to get more involved.

“This business is located across the street from a dozen single family homes,” said Nicholas Paul, an EHC activist. “22 senior residents with an average age of 75 years old are experiencing and living in a situation where they can’t open their windows.”

The product being made is more environmentally friendly than the fossil fuel it replaces, but there is a cost that local residents are paying.

“This is a green business,” Paul said. “However, that process is emitting a gut wrenching vomit-like odor that is making residents in the neighborhood sick.”.

Residents are asking the Air Quality Control Board to issue an abatement order forcing the company to fix the problem.

A hearing is expected in late October.

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  • The San Diego non-profit Environmental Health Coalition is launching a petition asking the San Diego Air Pollution Control District to stop the company New Leaf Biofuel from producing hazardous odors that it says are making Barrio Logan residents sick. Then, we stay in Barrio Logan to talk about the long-awaited opening of the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center. Next, details on an emergency plan to repair a portion of train tracks connecting San Diego and Orange counties that have been closed since Friday.

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