A Bay Area Air Quality Management District monitor, responding to four complaints of bad air wafting from Pacific Steel Castings, was robbed at gunpoint outside the plant’s West Berkeley headquarters at 1 a.m. Friday.
Following the mugging, the air district’s Director of Enforcement Kelly Wee alerted city officials by e-mail that it would no longer respond to air pollution complaints at Pacific Steel Castings “until we can re-evaluate the safety for our staff at night.”
West Berkeley residents had been pressuring the air district to send monitors late at night to Pacific Steel Castings, which it blames for producing a burnt rubber smell in the neighborhood that is often most pungent at night.
Since March the air district has issued the company three notices of violations for producing foul-smelling air. Later this year, Berkeley and Pacific Steel are scheduled to begin studies to locate the exact source of the odor emanating from the plant at 1333 Second St.
Councilmember Linda Maio, who represents the neighborhood, said she was working to provide a police escort for air monitors responding to late night complaints around Pacific Steel.
“We need to make sure that the air district can come when the smell is evident,” she said.
According to Wee, Supervising Inspector Ron Pilkington parked his car on the side of Gilman Street and Sixth Street early Friday morning when a man smashed his car window and pressed a gun in his face.
“The robbers were armed and instructed him to turn over his money and keys or they would ‘shoot you in the face,’” Wee wrote.
Pilkington complied and after walking away from the car found someone with a cell phone who called the police, according to Wee.
Police spokesperson, Officer Joe Okies said police are searching for two men in connection with the robbery. He added that the information at his disposal did not indicate that the robbers made off with Pilkington’s car.