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Berkeley Residents Fuming Over Asphalt Plant’s Alleged Fog Of Toxins

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BERKELEY (KCBS) — Residents who live near an asphalt plant in West Berkeley allege that it’s violating terms of settlement made in 1999 and claim they are inhaling toxic fumes on a daily basis. Now they are taking the case to City Hall demanding that the plant spew less pollution or shut down.

Apart from the upscale shops of Fourth Street, Berkeley’s Ocean View is a modest, mixed-use neighborhood of artists and working class families. It is also home to Hanson Aggregates Berkeley Asphalt & Readymix, which agreed 15 years ago to mitigate its industrial emissions. But Kate Stepanski , who lives on 5th Street, told KCBS that a toxic cloud is swallowing up the mothers, children and volunteers in the neighborhood garden.

15 years ago, neighbors in Berkeley’s Ocean View worked out a settlement with the City and Hanson Asphalt & Ready Mix, to mitigate the pollution emitted from the plant on Third Street. But Kate Stepanski told KCBS that its terms are being ignored, and she and her 3-year-old daughter live in a toxic fog.

“Their skin starts to burn when the odors come out of the facility,” she said.

“My child cries every time she cannot play outside because of the fumes. We can’t open our windows; it’s quite awful.”

Stepanski and Beth Montano joined other irate neighbors, demanding that City Hall enforce the settlement and prove, with documents, the company is in compliance.

“I’m in cancer remission. I have an 18 percent chance of it coming back and every time I breathe those fumes, I wonder if that number is increasing,” Montano said.

City Councilwoman Linda Maio said there is little they can do because the Air Quality Management Board has jurisdiction.

The groups calls that a poor excuse but Mayor Tom Bates, who sits on the board, said that the situation is unacceptable and that he will look into it.

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