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Sriracha debate heats up at Irwindale meeting

The Irwindale City Council met Wednesday to discuss whether or not the Sriracha hot sauce factory is a public nuisance.
February 26, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
The Irwindale City Council met Wednesday night to decide whether a hot sauce factory is a public nuisance because of spicy emissions that have resulted in complaints from residents. Both sides spoke out in this heated debate, but the issue is still undecided.

Dozens of people packed the city council chambers, most of them sporting red shirts supporting the Sriracha manufacturing plant.

"I work in the mixing room. I have asthma. I mix every day. I feel nothing wrong with my lungs or my health, so please don't shut us down," said Juan Bravo, a Huy Fong Foods employee.

Some Irwindale residents have complained about the fumes from the chili peppers that Huy Fong Foods uses to make its world-famous sauce. They say the odors burn their eyes and throats.

"It's really, really bad for me...and for my grandkids. I have 11. Five of them have asthma and it's bad for them," said Irwindale resident Dina Zapeja.

Gus Romo with the Irwindale Community Development Department says the city continues to get complaints from residents in Irwindale as well as those from neighboring cities.

South Coast Air Quality Management District officials say they've been sampling the air in and around the Sriracha plant and even designed specialized equipment to detect the pepper fumes. Of the 61 complaints the AQMD received about the odor, 40 came from just four households.

"To date, we have not determined that there has been a public nuisance that requires us to take any enforcement action," said Mohsen Nazemi with the AQMD.

In the end, councilmembers postponed their public nuisance vote until April. In the meantime, air quality officials plan to sit down with city leaders and the Sriracha folks to hopefully clear the air in this hot sauce dispute.

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