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Carson warehouse owner denies wrongdoing over odors

The owner of a Carson warehouse identified as the source of material that caused noxious odors to emanate from the Dominguez Channel for weeks, sickening residents in a swath of the South Bay, insisted Friday it quickly stepped in to begin remediation efforts after the building fire that sent chemicals into the channel.

The Los Angeles Water Quality Board announced Thursday a proposed $17 million penalty for the warehouse owner, Liberty Property Limited Partnership, and its parent company, Prologis Inc., as well as building tenants Day to Day Imports Inc. and Virgin Scent Inc., doing business as ArtNaturals.

The proposed penalty is the result of a months-long investigation by the Los Angeles Water Quality Control Board into the noxious smell, which was traced to organic material decaying in the channel. The result was a rotten-egg-type smell that wafted over a region including Carson, Gardena, Torrance, Redondo Beach, Wilmington and Long Beach.

Some residents complained of headaches, burning eyes, nausea, and other discomforts due to the odor.

If approved by the Los Angeles Water Board during its Oct. 12 meeting, the fine will be the largest ever imposed by the agency.

In a statement Friday, Prologis denied any wrongdoing.

“We vigorously dispute any suggestion by the Regional Board that Prologis and Liberty did not take appropriate actions as property owners following the Sept. 30 fire,” according to the company. “Neither Prologis nor Liberty caused the fire. Nevertheless, in the days following the fire, after the tenant Day to Day failed to clean up the fire debris, Liberty and Prologis stepped forward to remove the debris and prevent stormwater runoff.

“By the time the Regional Board issued its cleanup and abatement order ten weeks later, we already had significant remedial actions well underway. As a long-term member of the Southern California community, we are committed to providing commercial space in a safe and responsible manner.”

According to regulators, the building tenants stored large quantities of wellness/beauty products at the warehouse located at 16325 S. Avalon Blvd. in Carson.

On Sept. 30, 2021, a large fire started on the warehouse property, and efforts to fully extinguish the fire continued over several days. The South Coast Air Quality Management District concluded last year that chemicals contained in the stored products, including ethanol, passed through the sewer system into the local flood control waterway, the Dominguez Channel. This was followed by the anaerobic decay of organic materials in the channel, which caused elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide to be discharged into the air.

Water Board officials said more than 4,000 complaints were ultimately received about the odor.

The AQMD issued violation notices to the companies last year.

On Dec. 9, the Los Angeles Water Board issued a “cleanup and abatement order” to Day to Day Imports and Liberty Property Limited Partnership, requiring that all waste be removed by Dec. 31.

“To date, they have failed to complete all activities required by the order, leading the board’s prosecution team to propose an additional administrative civil liability of over $600,000 for this violation,” according to the Water Board.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last year declared a local emergency and the Department of Public Health conducted door-to-door outreach to more than 8,970 Carson residents, including medically fragile individuals. In addition, the Department of Public Works coordinated with multiple experts and spent an estimated $5.4 million on remediation and providing or reimbursing residents for air filters, air purifiers and temporary relocation.

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