Calls for comment from managers at Darling's plant here have not been returned. But last fall, plant manager Gil Gutierrez said that his plant was a clean operation. "I tell you what - you can eat off our floors now," Gutierrez said in an interview.
Environmental activists in Los Angeles say the violations and the delays in enforcement action against Darling International are typical of a plant located in one of the poorer sections of the city. "It doesn't surprise me at all" said Carlos Porras of the Citizens for a Better Environment. "This is the classic example of industry taking advantage of the poor. When these companies set up shop in large cities, it always happens to be in areas high in minority populations, yet low in income and political pull."
South Coast AQMD attorney Joe Panasiti said he had no problem with Darling's location, or with the nature of the operation. "Large companies have been locating themselves alongside waterways and within city limits since the advent of the industrial revolution," Panasiti said in an interview. But why do the major polluters seem to land in the poor neighborhoods? "I guess it's a matter of money."
Panasiti said he learned of the Minnesota indictments last month, but said officials at the air-quality district are committed to encouraging business operations in the Southland. Regulators simply need to keep their priorities in balance, he added. "You just can't let the good sense hide the bad scents."