Fresh Air Ahead: Curbing the Foul Air in Boyle Heights


Boyle Heights is long overdue for cleaner air, a neighborhood that's long suffered from foul odors coming from manufacturing plants, four major freeways, rail operations, and sewers. Residents are getting some relief with the opening of an air treatment facility (ATF) on the corner of Mission Road and Jesse Street, just on the bank of the Los Angeles River. The ATF picks up and cleans the foul odors coming from the intersection of two major sewer lines beneath the neighborhood, specifically the Lower East Central Interceptor Sewer and North Central Outfall Sewer. According to Paul Gomez of the City of Los Angeles Public Works, the ATF in Boyle Heights can remove up to 12,000 cubic feet per minute of foul air.

"This facility has an enormous effect on the neighborhood by stopping the release of foul odorous air," said Gomez, "Lowering foul gas pressure in the sewer line provides relief on the local sewers for up to one mile away from the site."

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The facility draws foul air from sewer lines and through a biological process, according to Gomez, "Once odorous compounds are removed, the treated air goes through activated carbon vessels. Carbon acts as both polishing units and in the event that biofilters fail, create a secondary line of defense."

The third facility of its kind in the city, the ATF's construction was a result of a lawsuit brought on by South Los Angeles residents tired of the stink in their own neighborhoods coming from sewer lines. The two other air treatment facilities were built in South Los Angeles: one on Jefferson Boulevard and another at the intersection of La Cienega Boulevard and Jefferson Boulevard in 2011. These facilities were planned as part of the city's agreement with the residents back in 2004.

The $17.8 million project is on a one-third acre site and softened by the first ever Los Angeles River-adjacent green space in the neighborhood. The greenway is filled with native plants and artwork from Los Angeles River artist Michael Amescua, whose silhouettes of animals on metal gates have become eye-catching attractions along the river. For now, it also provides a great view of the Sixth Street Bridge, which will be torn down to make way for a new futuristic bridge in the coming years.

The air treatment facility is complimented with green space and a view of the Sixth Street Bridge

The air treatment facility is complimented with green space and a view of the Sixth Street Bridge

"I'm very excited about the completion of this project and the vital green space it is bringing to the residents of Boyle Heights," said Councilmember José Huizar. "Revitalizing the L.A. River and creating public gathering places and access along the new Sixth Street Bridge is one of my top priorities, and this will be the first of many projects that will be delivered to the area."

Though the unmanned facility is not open to the public, the greenway will be the first of many projects planned for greening the river in Boyle Heights. As announced previously, Huizar also won $2.5 million from the State's Active Transportation Program funds to construct bicycle and pedestrian improvements next to the Sixth Street Bridge.

With the planned soccer field in place along with the bicycle and pedestrian connections to the Sixth Street Bridge and Seventh Street set to open in 2019, the site will literally be a breath of fresh air for the traditionally industrial neighborhood.

Photos: Courtesy of Council District 14.


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