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San Diego County regulators consider odor issues at Barrio Logan factory

San Diego air quality regulators will decide Thursday on a timeline for a fuel company to eliminate odors coming from its Barrio Logan factory. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has details.

San Diego Air Pollution Control regulators will decide Thursday how much time a Barrio Logan company will take to fix a long-running odor problem.

Neighbors living near the New Leaf Biofuel facility on Newton Street have been complaining about the strong odor coming from the Barrio Logan plant for nearly a year.

The company collects used cooking oil from local restaurants and turns the oil into diesel fuel. That fuel contains 80% less carbon than diesel made from fossil fuels.


But one byproduct of the process that turns cooking oil into fuel is a pungent smell.

That odor is so strong people living near the plant feel like they can’t go outside, and they have been complaining to the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) since last November.

“We perfectly understand that the neighbors find this to be a nuisance but it’s not hazardous chemicals,” said Chris White, the Chief Operating Officer of New Leaf Biofuel. “There’s nothing hazardous about this. It is used cooking oil. It’s the oil that was cooking your fries a week ago.”

The company has been working with air pollution regulators to come up with a solution and they just recently got approval to install an odor control system.

The firm hopes to install filters containing more than two tons of activated carbon.


“Activated carbon is an acknowledged odor control solution that’s used widely in many industries for absorbing precisely the sort of chemicals that are in used cooking oil to control odor,” White said.

The company has the filters but is waiting for an industrial fan for the odor control system. It is not expected to arrive until the end of November.

But another month of odors is too much for a community that’s been dealing with the smell for nearly a year.

“We need an immediate pause on all operations at New Leaf Biofuel until they can show us that there’s an operating odor control system,” said Nicholas Paul, a member of the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC).

Residents have suffered enough and they should not have to continue to deal with the pungent smell, according to Paul.

Community members are widely expected to be out in force when the air quality board convenes Thursday morning.

“This is a big moment for our community,” Paul said. “I think for the first time in a really long time, APCD is stepping up to meet the moment. They are saying that if industry is going to impact community health and quality of life, they’re willing to step in.”

Regulators will decide the details and timing of an abatement order.

The company currently has until early December to install the odor control system.