Letters to the Editor — Remembering the Past and Designing a Future

The sign that once stood off of Highway 50 below Bench Road encouraged a phone call if you noticed odors. I was unaware of the seriousness of the situation that began in 2007. I didn’t follow the newspaper stories but I’ve since learned the sign was from a small but tough community in the midst of a epic battle for a decent quality of life.

Living next an oil recycling plant was beyond unfortunate. Accounts from residents included burning of the eyes and throat, rashes, vomiting, headaches, stomachaches, and flu-like symptoms from intense odors. Some horses started coughing and progressed to breathing difficulties. Two were euthanized and others so beloved by their owners were given away to avoid illness. Family dogs dry-heaved. An grandmother reported her granddaughter would get nosebleeds if she went outside. Another woman reported needing to leave her home for hours at time when emissions were so intense. Homes and land and were devalued in price.

This is a small snapshot of what residents experienced on and off for years. They went to meeting after meeting. There were lengthy bureaucratic discussions, field investigations, and continuous desperate pleas by residents, 220 complaints as noted in one state file between 2007 and 2010. Citations for violations were issued. The county funded a study by Desert Research Institute in 2010. The study recommended a follow up monitoring of the stacks which apparently was not completed. An explosion and fire at the plant critically injured an employee in 2013. A large plume of chemical laden black smoke rose high in the air.

Current owners purchased the facility in 2016 and upgraded the plant. Odors remain an issue as evidenced by complaints from residents at a December 2018 county planning commission meeting. The bright nighttime lights from the plant was also mentioned. I was interested in hearing the comments because I had noticed intermittent emissions 8 miles away this summer. The experiences of that small community as a result of poor technological and decision-making choices over the years must not be forgotten and should be rectified.

The company’s planned 20% expansion of output must include an outreach program and the initiating of communications regularly with the community and officials. To step out ahead, the company could easily partner with independent research companies developing their plant as a nationally recognized site for advanced atmospheric studies in this industry. The parent company of this facility takes in billions of dollars in revenue and could create a new model for the industry, one that includes the latest science and solid protection of the entire Lahontan Valley.

–Bernadette Francke

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