Friday, December 30, 2016

East Bay Times story on odor problem

    POINT RICHMOND - The East Bay Times published a story this morning recapping the problem of noxious odors that have plagued the Point for months.
    The story comes in the wake of comments Thursday by Bay Area Air Quality Management District officials and investigators that they are suspicious that the remaining windrows of raw compost material at Republic Services on Parr Road north of the Point might be the source of the smell that Point residents have been experiencing since Christmas.


From the East Bay Times:

Improperly composted material causes a stink in Richmond

By Karina Iofee
RICHMOND — Republic Services, a major waste-disposal company in the Bay Area, stored 10 times more compost than it was permitted to at a local landfill, causing the material to improperly decompose and ultimately emit a noxious odor that some neighboring residents say has made them ill.
Instead of being resold to agricultural users such as farmers and vintners, as much as 360,000 cubic yards of compost — about a football stadium filled 70 yards deep with soil — went sour and had to be landfilled, despite the company’s promise to reduce waste.
FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, CLICK HERE: Improperly composted material 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

BAAQMD officials are suspicious of Republic Services' compost windrows

     POINT RICHMOND - The Bay Area Air Quality Management District said today it is suspicious that some remaining windrows of raw compost material at Republic Services on Parr Road may be the source of the most recent foul odors flooding Point Richmond in the evenings and early morning hours.
     These windrow piles are separate from the two large stacks of compost materials that the company has been trucking away to a Republic-owned landfill for the past few months.
     While the BAAQMD is suspicious the windrows are the source, the investigation is still underway, an official said.

     The air quality agency has visited the site numerous times over the past few months in response to several hundred citizen complaints about the noxious fumes wafting into Point Richmond. Some residents believe the fumes are the likely cause of headaches and sore throats that occur concurrently when the noxious odor is present.
     For the past two evenings, the complaints have ramped up significantly, prompting Republic officials, BAAQMD staff and even private citizens to scour the area trying to locate the exact source.
     The district said in a press release that it is investigating all potential sources of rotten-egg odor complaints in Richmond and San Francisco.
    The investigation includes "...Two flaring incidents at Chevron as well as other potential sources such as ships, area landfills and wastewater treatment facilities."
     Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the air quality district said the agency will pursue "any an all enforcement actions," once the source is determined.

     While the hunt continues for that source, the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council has invited Chevron officials to attend the next PRNC meeting, most likely January 25 unless the PRNC decides to hold a special meeting. Republic Services is scheduled to be on the agenda for the same PRNC meeting to give an update on its new composting system.
     David Schoenthal, president of the PRNC, said he been in touch with Chevron officials who say that the company is confident the foul odors in the Point are not the result of any Chevron activities.


Chevron company odor hotline: 510-242-2127
BAAQMD hotline - 1-800-334-6367
Contra Costa County's Lori Braunesreither, Department of Health
EMAIL: Lori Braunesreither.
Phone: 925-692-2528
Nicole Ewing, Richmond Code Enforcement (510-621-1591)
Bielle Moore, Republic Services community affairs manager
PHONES: (510-262-7547 or 510-205-4908)
Email: Bielle Moore

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Point's struggle with odors continues

    POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - Residents of Point Richmond starting calling government agencies Tuesday evening shortly after 8 p.m., reporting an overwhelming noxious smell that touched off a Point-wide hunt for the source of the fumes.
     Representatives of Republic Services turned out Tuesday night to help chase down the source of the smell.
     That hunt was still on this morning as some residents in the downtown area and out in Brickyard Cove continued to report smelling an odor foul enough to keep them indoors.

     Even though fingers were immediately pointed at Republic Services much-criticized composting operation on Parr Road, it remains unclear exactly who is responsible for the most recent odor that prompted dozens of phone calls and emails to air quality officials and others.
     And it was also not clear today if the strong stench reported in Point Richmond had any connection to a mysterious, sulphur-dioxide smell reported in parts of San Francisco Tuesday night.
     Reportedly there were foul odors on the west side of the Richmond-San Rafael bridge last night too.

     Point Richmond resident Steve Birnbaum - writing on the social network Nextdoor - suggested a community meeting should be held with Chevron representatives in an attempt to sort out if Chevron had in any way contributed to Tuesday's - and today's - noxious fumes. He said he has contacted the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council see about inviting Chevron to its next meeting.
     The PRNC's next scheduled meeting is Wednesday, Jan. 25, but could call a special meeting.

Looking north from Point Richmond

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Compost material gone - but smell lingers

   POINT RICHMOND - Republic Services announced Monday afternoon that it had removed the last of the raw compost material from its Parr Road site the company was concerned might cause odor problems.
     The Monday work - completed at 3 p.m. - came after a two-day, holiday halt to trucking the material offsite to a Republic-operated landfill.
     But hours after the announcement Monday, Point residents began complaining the familiar noxious smell was flooding the Point again. Similar complaints came in Tuesday morning from around Point Richmond. Several residents complained - as they have in the past - that the fumes were causing headaches and throat irritations.

    Republic spokeswoman Bielle Moore said Tuesday morning that operations crews from Republic - including Doug Brewer, Republic's environmental manager - were working to determine the origin of the smell.
     Since early fall, Republic has removed a 360,000 cubic-foot pile of compost-gone-bad off its property. The last of that material was gone before Christmas. The material removed Monday had been scheduled for regular composting. But company officials opted to remove it in case it had turned  sour also.
     The removal of the massive amount of raw compost this fall has prompted hundreds of citizen complaints to air quality officials, Contra Costa County Health officials and City of Richmond Code Enforcement. Nearly all of the reported incidents of noxious smells and fumes have come during times when the wind has been blowing from the north.

    A new composting system - unveiled at two community meetings - is on line and is currently in use processing compost, Moore said. The company believes this new, forced-air system is much less likely to produce any of the odors that have plagued the Point since September.
     Moore was fielding phone calls and email queries from Point residents for most of the morning.
     Republic is scheduled to give the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council an update Wednesday, Jan. 25 on the new composting system and other activities.



Contra Costa County's Lori Braunesreither, Department of Health
EMAIL: Lori Braunesreither. 
Nicole Ewing, Richmond Code Enforcement (510-621-1591)
Bielle Moore, Republic Services community affairs manager
PHONES: (510-262-7547 or 510-205-4908)
Email: Bielle Moore

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas & Christmas Eve free of fumes?

   POINT RICHMOND - The air is likely to smell sweeter Christmas Eve and Christmas.
      Republic Services announced late Wednesday afternoon that it will halt its compost-gone-bad removal project for the two days.
     A spokeswoman for the company said Republic would halt removal of collected raw composting material from its Parr Road site on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Crews will work at the site Saturday on a project, but will not be disturbing the compost.
    The suspension should ensure the noxious foul smells that have been flooding Point Richmond won't spoil the holiday, Bielle Moore said.
    The company is in the process of removing a large pile of raw compost material on site, digging into mounds and loading it onto trucks to take off site to a Republic-owned landfill.
     Over last weekend the company removed the final loads of compost material that the company said it was sure had gone "sour." The material currently being removed - believed to be the source of the past six days of foul odors - was in line to be routinely composted/processed. But the company opted to remove it instead, hoping to avoid further complaints of foul-smelling fumes.
   City of Richmond code enforcement officials were scheduled to visit the Republic site Wednesday and review the situation.
    Republic expects by early next year to have a new composting system in place that company officials believe will minimize any foul odors drifting to Point Richmond - and other communities around the area.
    The company is also scheduled to give the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council an update on its activities at the PRNC meeting Wednesday, Jan. 25.

    The PRNC heard a presentation about Republic's continuing noxious smell problems at its December meeting from Joe Doser, a supervising environmental health specialist with Contra Costa County. Doser presented the group with a detailed 13-page official county memo/report about the ongoing problems at Republic.
     The PRNC that evening also heard from representatives of Bay Area Air Quality Management and the City of Richmond Code enforcement office about their efforts to deal with the wafting noxious fumes that have prompted hundreds of complaints to the agencies and sparked concerns about the effect the fumes might be having on residents' health.
Contra Costa County's Lori Braunesreither, Department of Health: Lori Braunesreither
Nicole Ewing, Richmond Code Enforcement (510-621-1591)
Bielle Moore, Republic Services community affairs manager (510-262-7547)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

WANTED: 100 writer-coaches for schools

POINT RICHMOND - The WriterCoach connection is looking for a few good writer-coaches.

     OK, they are actually seeking to add 100 coaches who - after some training - will join the 650-plus volunteers already working in schools in Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany and Berkeley, helping more than 2,000 middle and high school age students.

     In Richmond, the writer-coaches work in English classes at Lovonya DeJean Middle School, Richmond High, and a new college-readiness program for juniors at Kennedy High.

     The program is also operating at El Cerrito High and Korematsu Middle School.

     Program director Kirsten Cross says the writer-coaches help build the students' academic confidence and improve critical thinking skills - in addition to simply helping them also be better writers.

     The time commitment is about two hours per week per 12-week semester, Cross says.

Steve Early
Rita Gardner
     Two well-known Point Richmond authors, Rita Gardner (The Coconut Latitudes) and Steve Early (Save Our Unions and Refinery Town) are currently writer-coaches with the program - both of whom highly recommend joining the ranks of the writer-coaches.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Foul odor creeps back into Point Richmond

   POINT RICHMOND - Even as Republic Services was reporting Saturday that it was done cleaning up the compost-gone-sour at its Parr Road facility, Point Richmond residents were filing complaints of odors wafting over the village and out into the Brickyard Landing area.

     Saturday afternoon, Sunday and again this morning - Point residents have been reporting they were smelling an all-too-familiar odor that has plagued the area on and off since September. Longtime Point residents say it's actually been an on-again, off-again problem for several years.

     A Republic Services representative said this morning that while the original pile of composting material - believed to be the cause of the bad odor  - had been completely removed by 1:30 p.m. Saturday, it may take until Dec. 30 to haul the balance of other composting material still on the site to another location.

     That material - which is not considered 'sour' by Republic - had been scheduled for normal composting. But Republic opted to truck it out rather than chance any further odor incidents, the spokesman said. This morning the trucks began hauling off that material.

     This weekend and today's incidents of malodorous odors come after two back-to-back meetings about the problem earlier this month.

     In the first, held Tuesday. Dec. 6 at Kaleidoscope Coffee, Republic representatives made a presentation about a new, more efficient composting system the company will start using which it believes will result in virtually no odors.

     The following night at the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council meeting, Joe Doser, a supervising environmental health specialist with Contra Costa County gave the PRNC copies of a detailed 13-page report about county actions relative to Republic. The report talks about fires at the Republic facility, air pollution issues, citizen complaints and a history of the most recent odor problems.

     At that meeting Doser said in July the county discovered that Republic had amassed more than 360,000 cubic yards of composting material on site - more than 10 times the company's permitted volume of 32,000 cubic yards.

     The Contra Costa County report was also circulated over the weekend via the website Nextdoor by a Point Richmond resident.
Michael J. Fitzgerald

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Smaller crowd at Sunday Craneway Fair

POINT RICHMOND - The Sunday edition of the weekend-long Craneway Crafts Fair - a benefit for KPFA radio - was a little less crowded than Saturday's opening.

But there were still hundreds of people attending, shopping, eating and listening to the music.

Parking was also appreciably easier Sunday, with spots very close to the entrance on the east side of the Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbor Way South.

The crafts fair is open until 5 p.m. today. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors, children can come in for free.

Below are some photos from today's fair of exhibits and exhibitors.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Junkyard fire grabs media coverage

     POINT RICHMOND - A fire at a vehicle wrecking yard broke out about 7 a.m. grabbing plenty of attention from Bay Area media as well as reports from local residents about the huge cloud of smoke, visible for miles.

     Fire officials reported that about 40 vehicles were involved in the blaze at Deal Auto Wrecking on West Gertrude.

     For about two hours, officials had a "shelter in place" order in effect, which essentially tells people to stay put - and indoors - for their safety.

     They were concerned about the health of people breathing whatever substances were being carried in the foul black plume.

     Richmond Parkway was shut down completely between West Gertrude and Pittsburg Avenues.

     Shortly after the fire broke out, a representative of Republic Services - the Richmond disposal company - contacted The Point to say that the blaze was not at the transfer station or its composting operation.

     The composting operation has been the center of residents' complaints and blamed for a foul odor that has wafted over the area on numerous occasions since early fall.

     Here's a link to the East Bay Times story, which is being updated as the fire and cleanup progress: WRECKING YARD FIRE.

And here are links to other media:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

STILL Christmas shopping? Check this out

POINT RICHMOND - Crafts, food and music.

What else do you need to shake yourself loose this weekend to come to the Craneway Crafts Fair Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - a benefit for KPFA radio

General admission is $12 for adults, seniors and disabled persons $8, children are free.

This is the 46th such fair in the Bay Area, with about 200 artists and craftspeople showing original work at the Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbor Way South.

Organizers promise a food court with different foods each day. Sunday will also feature a brunch.

Art glass by Shawn Tsai
Music will be provided by local musicians with a performance by the World Harmony Chorus at 10 a.m. Sunday.

If you're coming via BART to the fair, you can jump on a free shuttle.

And if you are driving? Parking is free.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Richmond-to-SF ferry coming in 2018

   POINT RICHMOND - The Hydrus is coming to Richmond in early 2018.

     That's the name of the under-construction, 400-plus passenger ferry that the San Francisco Bay Ferry company will be using to start its Richmond-to-San Francisco (and back, of course) service.

     That piece of news was delivered to the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council Wed. Dec. 7 by Ernest Sanchez, manager of public information and marketing for the company.

     Hydrus, by the way, means water snake.

      At the outset, the ferry service will run Monday-Friday with three morning departures and four afternoon return trips. Although the Hydrus is nominally the official Richmond ferry, because of scheduling other ferries will be providing service from the Richmond Ferry Landing, too.

     The ferry will leave and return from a pier near the Ford Craneway building, Sanchez said. Parking for about 360 vehicles in planned on the Richmond side. A shuttle to take passengers to-and-from the ferry terminal area is also possible.

     "For now, this will be a peak commute service," he said. "Initially, there won't be any weekend or midday service."

     The ferry will be landing on the San Francisco side at the SF Ferry Building, where construction is planned to make room for additional Bay Area ferries.

     In addition to 400 passengers, the ferry will also have room for 50 bicycles, offer food and beverage service and make the Richmond-to-SF run in about 30 minutes. The new ferry is one of seven under construction by the company for use in the Bay Area, all of which are scheduled to be in service by 2019.

    The Hydrus will initially be doing Vallejo-to-San Francisco trips - as well as other break-in voyages - before being put into service for the Richmond run.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

PRNC hears less-rosy projections about Republic's compost-odor problems

POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - The Point Richmond Neighborhood Council learned Wednesday night that Contra Costa County Health officials aren't sure the noxious odors emanating from Republic Services composting will be gone as quickly as promised by the company.

Tuesday night a Republic spokesman said that by this Saturday - or Monday at the latest - a 22,000 cubic yard pile of compost-gone-sour would be hauled off to a Republic-owned landfill in Pittsburgh and buried.

But Joe Doser, a supervising environmental health specialist with the county said that estimate was overly optimistic.

"More likely it will be gone in the next couple of weeks," he said.
Joe Doser, Contra Costa County
environmental health specialist

Doser's comments came in a presentation made by officials from the county, Bay Area Air Quality Management and the City of Richmond. They talked about the ongoing odors from Republic wafting over the Point, often making people feel nauseous and sometimes prompting other symptoms like sore throats and headaches.

The decomposing material being trucked out is so foul, Doser said, it is being covered with regular garbage at Republic's Pittsburgh facility to cover up the smell.

Republic Services officials said they had a conflict and couldn't be at the PRNC meeting, opting instead to hold the Tuesday community presentation at Kaleidoscope Coffee.

In his PRNC presentation, Doser walked the council and about 30 Point Richmond-area residents through the history of the most recent odor problems from the composting operation at Republic's Parr Road facility.

In July, when the county inspected the composting operation, Doser said they discovered Republic had amassed more than 360,000 cubic yards of composting material - more than 10 times the company's permitted volume of 32,000 cubic yards.

Since then the county has inspected regularly, given Republic several cease and desist orders and is working with the company to clean up its composting operation. In an October visit, inspectors found significant quantities of plastic in the green waste being delivered to the Republic site for composting.

"We don't believe it (the odor) represents a health threat," Doser said. But he admitted some the smells were likely coming from several acidic compounds formed in the composting process.

City of Richmond code enforcement officer Nicole Ewing said the city was late in getting involved, mostly because Point residents were only calling to complain to Bay Area air quality officials - or Republic itself. But since the city joined efforts to clear the air, she said the city has sent out nuisance notices. And she is following up on complaints almost daily.

Ewing urged people to also alert the city anytime there is an odor problem.

Several members of the audience asked about the legal process for revoking Republic's permit to operate if the problem continues.

The officials said that process would likely involve the city planning commission, whatever local enforcement agencies hold the power to revoke and quite possibly the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors.
Written by Michael J. Fitzgerald

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

That bad smell could be history next week

POINT RICHMOND - Representatives of Republic Services - operators of the Parr Road transfer station and composting facility along Richmond Parkway - promised Tuesday night that within a week the odor that has been fouling the air in Point Richmond and environs should be gone.

Doug Brewer, an environmental manager with the company told a crowd of 30 people at Kaleidoscope Coffee that the company had trucked out nearly all of the sour (and bad-smelling) compost that was responsible for the gagging stench that prompted many dozens of complaints since October.

"We are committed to being good neighbors," Brewer said.

Audience at Kaleidoscope Coffee in Point Richmond
Brewer and Republic staff members said the combination of a wet winter last year and unusually warm fall temperatures combined to create the compost problem, prompting the company - and the urging of the Contra Costa County Health Department - to install an entirely new system of composting using forced air. The former system simply set up rows of composting material.

The new system is about 50 percent complete, he said. "And it knocks out about 90 percent of potential for bad smells."

Responding to complaints, the county had ordered Republic to get rid of the offensive-smelling compost. Most of it has been trucked to a Republic-owned landfill near Pittsburgh with the last of the material due to be trucked this week.

"Saturday, or no later than Monday, it should all be gone," Brewer said.

The audience asked numerous questions about air sampling, the permitting process, and who to complain to if foul odors occur again.

Several Point residents complained that the odor had given them sore throats and headaches.

A number of questions were also asked about the deodorizing agent that Republic has been spraying on the compost in the hopes it would alleviate some of the odor that has wafted across the Point. Several members of the audience were concerned that the deodorizer might be contributing to the odor - maybe making it worse.

The meeting Tuesday night was the second public session Republic sponsored in response to complaints. The first was held Nov. 15 at the Marriott in Hilltop but was attended by only a handful of local residents.

For more information about the Republic Services operation - or to call in a complaint directly to the company - call Bielle Moore, community affairs manager (510-205-4908) or Doug Brewer (510-970-7245). Moore can also be reached by email here: Bielle Moore.

Contra Costa County's Lori Braunesreither at the Department of Health, can be contacted via email here: Lori Braunesreither
Written by Michael J. Fitzgerald