Northwest Orange Fights the “Fugitive Dust” of RJ Noble.

So you drive and you drive, and just on the northeast side where Lincoln crosses the Santa Ana River is this kingdom unto itself, regally dubbed RJ Noble, an “aggregate plant.” “Aggregate” means they make and destroy and recycle asphalt, concrete, that kind of stuff for everybody’s streets; they also have a huge plant in Corona, and all over the County you’ll see their big trucks everywhere. Here on the side of the river, the plant is neither in Orange nor Anaheim but on its own 75-acre chunk of unincorporated land. Their estimated annual revenue is $11 million a year. They’ve been there since 1953, and they’ll have you know they’re “GRANDFATHERED IN” and can do whatever they want.

(God, family, country!)

Over those 70 years, homes and neighborhoods and a park have risen up in close proximity to this plant, and over the past 20 years many of these residents have started to wonder if there’s anything they can do about the nonstop noise and pollution? So far they’ve gotten no help from any government officials or agencies, who point these gadflies elsewhere and have no appetite to discomfit a deep-pocketed corporation that’s grandfathered in.

Some of these residents have organized themselves into a “Five Coves Conservancy.” Here’s where I’ll save myself a LOT of work, and reprint a letter, dated January of last year, from a Conservancy member, to Supervisor Don Wagner. (Imagine the desperation of having to ask DON WAGNER for help with a polluting corporation!)

The 1/4/22 Wagner Letter

Dear Supervisor Donald F. Wagner:

We received your flyer on “Recent Improvements in Orange County to Better Serve You” on December 7, 2021. The statement “having worked with you to directly solve local issues that impact city life to the rural canyon areas” gave me some hope that that you and the current board will revisit and re-evaluate and truly understand the extremely negative impact that the R.J. Noble (Noble) company has had and continues to have on the surrounding neighborhoods.

Noble is a fully operational aggregate company that is surrounded by residential neighborhoods. Since it is on county land, they are not subject to any city ordinances controlling noise, dust, dirt, odors and hours to operate. The noise from their operations starts well before dawn and continues late into the evening; a cacophony of loud banging, screeching machinery, truck back up alarms and a steady machine drone that can be heard inside my home. Dirt and sand, and occasionally stones, rocks and asphalt globs, fall on Lincoln Avenue from trucks coming and going from the property. When they have a contract to fulfill, they can operate 24 hours a day. The noise is always there. But when Noble is closed on the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the sound of silence is just incredibly peaceful, easing the tenseness and stress their constant din produces.


When they recycle and process rubber, the nauseating, headache producing odor permeates the entire area. There is always a layer of black dirt and dust on the outside lawn chairs, cars and windowsills. Cars washed one day are covered in black dirt the next day and surfaces inside my house need to be dusted every day. Noble produces plumes of dust that can be seen many times as a brown cloud that billows over the area. Trucks leaving the plant and traveling down Lincoln Avenue raise a cloud of dust that trails as far as the eye can see towards Glassell Street and the same going over the Santa Ana Riverbed bridge toward Anaheim.

AQMD was contacted several times during this period with the “fugitive dust”, dirt and sand blowing, but nothing significant came from this report. AQMD and/or the EPA may have testing standards to try to determine why there is so much black and brown dirt/dust that keeps falling on our cars and patio furniture, as environmental and health hazards are real and detrimental to the health and safety of all citizens

I will detail some background information and events to show how long we have been battling these issues.

My neighbors and I have been active for years in seeking a solution or at least, a mitigation of some of the most intrusive of Noble’s functions. I emailed Supervisor Bill Campbell in June 2005 with these concerns, and he wrote to Noble’s president, Michael Carver. I have Mr. Carver’s June 29, 2005 response in my files with his claims that Noble is a “good neighbor” and has “undertaken a number of improvements to make RJN more compatible with the neighborhood. These improvements have been costly and are significant, but also ensure that RJN is an environmentally-friendly plant and compliant with all Air Quality Management District regulations.” Mr. Carver then lists several “improvements”, such as “sweeping the east Lincoln sidewalk as a courtesy before the weekend begins.” This sidewalk sweeping didn’t start until we all complained about the amount of dirt and stones that was and still is, generated by the trucks coming from the plant site.


After Mr. Campbell reviewed Mr. Carver’s letter, he then mailed a letter dated July 13, 2005, to me and stated, “After reviewing these documents, it is clear that R.J. Noble is not in material breach of these permits”, and “the County does not have the grounds to remove the R.J. Noble Company nor rescind its conditional use permits.” No more could be done at this point per Mr. Campbell.

Then I emailed Mr. Campbell again on June 13, 2007, to inform him that the intolerable conditions from Noble’s operations were continuing and that I had contacted Noble VP Norm Wright about dirt they were trucking in to fill a huge hole on their site at that time. When I asked for reports on the fill dirt, Norm said Noble was “monitoring” every load for “appropriate material”. When I asked to see these reports, he told me “No, they are not public”. (What? and Why?)

Another email from Norm on July 26, 2007, asked for a meeting with Mike Carver on July 26, 2007, at 8:30 am. Three of my neighbors and I met with Mr. Carver on that date to address the issues below:

  • Plant/maintain barrier trees along Lincoln Avenue
  • Move loud conveyor belt systems back from Lincoln
  • Increase street sweeping to daily during hours of operation
  • Sweep sidewalks at least once a week
  • Fix your noisy equipment before neighbors have to complain
  • Equip the rubber recycler that spews noxious odors and smoke
  • The back sand elevator near the pit blows sand and dust and the billowing stream can be seen clearly as it reflects off moonlight. Mr. Carver said a new “dust suppressor system” is slated for “next year” (2008) (and of note, sand and dust is still blowing off this elevator to this day.)

We also told Mr. Carver that Noble needs to move to an area away from residential neighborhoods, and Mr. Carver said, “Not going to happen”!! He then added that he “can’t get a permit anywhere else” that allows him to do what he does on the current site and that he is “grandfathered in”. (Of note, what does this mean to this area if his processes would not be allowed anywhere else, but because he’s “grandfathered” in, allowed to sully our environment and directly impact our quality of life?)

The ongoing discussion “heated up” as we parried back and forth, and then I made the statement about Noble’s relationship with government agencies and that he was “in the back pocket of the politicians”. Mr. Carver’s face went from smiling to a scowl expression and he “lunged” across the table at me. I was very taken aback and alarmed at this behavior and the meeting ended. And so did, too, our efforts at this point.

Then in 2014, several neighbors and I wanted to address the same Noble issues again, and asked to meet with the new supervisor, Todd Spitzer. We did meet with him on March 6, 2014, to address these concerns. Unfortunately, there was no resolution for us from this meeting either.

We all understand that “they were here first”, and “you knew there was an aggregate company when you bought here”, but over the years some of the property around the Noble site was sold for residential development, reducing their work area. This increased the percentage of area residential neighborhoods, altering the “culture” of heavy industry around the Noble site to family life and highlighting the fact that they just do not belong here anymore. Using the “grandfather” clause is just not acceptable in today’s world of environmental hazards affecting everyone.

The unsightly slag piles up at the front of the property near Lincoln Avenue, are easily seen from our neighborhood, with sand and dirt blowing off them with the Santa Ana winds, adding to the debris that settles on our cars and homes. Steve Ambriz Memorial Park abuts one of the biggest slag piles, where kids and adults play sports, putting anyone running or walking, at risk of direct exposure to the airborne debris from Noble. At what point can it be determined that an aggregate plant does NOT belong in a primarily residential area?

All of Noble’s publicly declared promises, statements, “good neighbor” platitudes, community support, employment provider, and “operating state of the art dust, odor, and pollution eliminating equipment” that Noble professes to have and do, cannot erase the very simple fact that their daily operations do very negatively affect this community.

This letter and request for revisiting these issues are not a knee jerk reaction or complaint about Noble that has just been realized in the here and now. It comes from a cumulation of years of frustration and helplessness of telling government agencies about our problems with Noble and being told that nothing can/will be done. Is there no one who can see and understand what their impact does to this area?

Thank you for your attention and I hope, positive action to remove or mitigate Noble’s negative impact here.


Vern back.

  1. That particular region of the county has never elected good Supervisors, but the Five Coves Conservancy should try contacting Supervisors Foley & Sarmiento, who are much more willing to take the side of neighborhoods and the environment than the 3 supes pictured above. And with any luck Doug Chaffee might side with them, getting a majority for … pushing whatever sorts of mitigation might be possible.
  2. And while writing this and looking for a picture of the choleric Michael Carver, I saw that he retired in 2020 and left the company to his son and daughter, who MIGHT be more receptive to good neighborhood relations – you never know! [Below, the new generation of Carvers, VP KaSondra & President Austin, at some ASPHALT CONVENTION lol.]

Meanwhile an old friend of this author, jazz pianist Ron Kobayashi, who also lives in the Penumbra of RJ Noble, has joined the struggle and is trying to get some action from the Air Quality Management District (Yes, the same money-responsive state agency that ten years ago was trying to ban all beach bonfires to make some wealthy Newport homeowners happy while forever turning a blind eye to Disneyland’s hazardous fireworks – well, you gotta try!)

We will be watching this struggle closely and updating the story! Vern out. And here’s Kobayashi:

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.