AIR-QUALITY CITATIONS HIT CEMETERY COMPLAINTS LED TO AQMD ACTION AGAINST GRAND VIEW.
GLENDALE - Grand View Memorial Park, accused of improperly disposing of thousands of cremated remains, has repeatedly been cited for discharging foul odors and smoke, documents show.
Inspectors with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which enforces air-quality laws in Southern California, paid dozens of visits to the cemetery between 1998 and 2003, after nearly 60 complaints from residents about foul odors, records show.
As a result, the AQMD imposed strict conditions on operations and required $37,000 in equipment upgrades.
``They were causing a lot of problems. There were a lot of complaints,'' said Mohsen Nazemi, the assistant deputy executive officer of engineering and compliance for the AQMD. ``We did make a lot of visits.''
The citations, obtained through a California Public Records Act request, are unrelated to complaints by the state Consumer Affairs Department, which found the cremated remains of some 4,000 people in storage rooms, a trash bin, on the floor and mixed with other remains.
Officials also allege shoddy record-keeping, and said they believe cemetery President Marsha Lee Howard, secretary Moshe Goldsman and two trustees resold grave sites and ``loaned'' themselves $40,000 from the cemetery's endowment care fund, which was set up for grounds maintenance, records show.
As a result, officials halted new business in November and are taking the operators to court Jan. 19 for a permanent resolution to the case.
In the meantime, the operators have been ordered not to sell new graves, and Howard, who lives on the property, was removed from day-to-day operations.
Howard; her Woodland Hills attorney, Myles Mattenson; and Goldsman did not return calls Wednesday.
Kevin Flanagan, a spokesman with the Consumer Affairs Department, said he was not surprised by the AQMD citations.
``If they're not following cemetery and funeral rules properly, why would they follow air-quality rules?'' he said.
In April 2000, inspectors responded to residents' complaints of black smoke and were greeted by Howard, who said, ``I was wondering when I was going to hear from you,'' according to the documents.
An afterburner for one of the five crematory ovens broke down during a cremation cycle, she told investigators, and the fire department had responded.
``So far, Ms. Howard has received three (notices of violation) and one order of abatement and the complaints keep rolling in,'' inspector Don Hopps wrote in his notes.
In response to the Consumer Affairs allegations, residents who have loved ones buried in Grand View have filed a lawsuit alleging that remains were removed from graves, grave-site markers were discarded and graves meant for one person were re-used for other burials.
Milton Friedman, a senior legal administrator overseeing the case, said his office has been sending out questionnaires to potential victims in advance of a Feb. 17 court hearing, when attorneys will ask the judge for permission to inspect the property and videotape grave sites.
``We've had quite a few people call us,'' Friedman said. ``Most of the calls have complained about the lack of maintenance, the look of the cemetery. It gets emotional sometimes because there's some family members who've received cremated remains from the cemetery, but now question whether those are the actual remains.''
Jason Kandel, (818) 546-3306