Press-Enterprise: MECCA: Noxious odor prompts EPA probe
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is trying to determine the source of a noxious odor that has sickened teachers and students at a Mecca elementary school and forced the closure of a 3-mile stretch of Highway 111 for a little more than an hour Jan. 21.
Investigators hope to present their findings at a Feb. 16 community meeting at Saul Martinez Elementary School, where reports of the odor first surfaced in early December.
Leticia De Lara, legislative assistant to Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit, said the office began receiving complaints in the second week of December, when paramedics treated students and teachers for breathing problems and nausea.
Two other incidents have been reported at the school since then.
Mecca residents also have reported an odor in the community, and some suspect the odor is emanating from industrial recycling businesses operating on tribal land belonging to the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians.
"Our first step is to determine what it is and where it's coming from," Benoit said Tuesday.
Once the source is pinpointed, work can begin to abate the problem, he said.
Benoit, whose Fourth District includes the unincorporated desert community of Mecca, north of the Salton Sea, has been coordinating the efforts between Riverside County's Department of Environmental Health, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the EPA to determine the source of the smell.
Representatives of those agencies, officials of the Coachella Valley Unified School District, two members of the Mecca Community Council and a representative from the office of Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, attended a special meeting with Benoit's staff Jan. 20 at Saul Martinez school.
David Roosevelt, chairman of the Cabazon tribe, and two other members also attended the Jan. 20 meeting and pledged to cooperate with the investigation.
"We have the tribe and the businesses all in agreement that we have to solve this problem," De Lara said.
Authorities ask those who smell the odor to call 1-800-288-7664 and report details.
Full article here: www.pe.com/localnews/stories/PE_News_Local_D_odors26.1bd0426.html