FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- After the discovery of an illegal lab operating in Reedley, Fresno councilmembers are taking action to prevent future illegal labs in the city.
The infectious disease lab accountability and transparency ordinance was presented by Fresno city councilmembers Garry Bredefeld, Nelson Esparza, and Miguel Arias.
"This ordinance will ensure greater accountability and protection for the public," said Bredefeld.
The proposal of the ordinance comes after officials discovered the illegal bio lab in Reedley, operated by Prestige Biotech and Universal Meditech, had refrigerators filled with chemicals, human blood, Covid and pregnancy tests, and about 1,000 mice.
"We are effectively going to mandate that any infectious disease lab that wants to operate in the City of Fresno, notify our planning department go through a process and notify on our end. Notify residents in, I believe, a thousand foot radius of where the proposed location will be," said Esparza.
Councilmember Miguel Arias says property owners will also not be able to turn a blind eye to what is taking place in their building.
"This ordinance further includes accountability for the property owner, as well as the business operating within these facilities," said Arias.
The legislation stating who breaks the law "shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable up to one year in a county jail and a $1,000 fine."
All three council members say the community in Reedley along with neighboring cities deserved to know about the lab and they are critical of the county's response.
"The City of Fresno will not allow the county board of supervisors response to this lab to be the standard for how we manage these types of labs within the city jurisdiction," said Arias.
Reedley and county officials addressed the delay in notifying the public at the board of supervisors meeting on August 8th.
They acknowledged the difficulty when working with state and federal agencies and the cooperation of the company.
The county provided Action News a response, writing in part:
"The Fresno County Department of Public Health does not have legal oversight or authority over labs with biological materials... That said, this facility was operating in the City of Fresno for a minimum of two years, with these hazardous materials, without the knowledge of the FCDPH."
For the lab in Reedley they also said there was no threat to the public and officials posted public closure notices on April 21, 2023, May 31, 2023, and June 9, 2023.
Arias says its not about the incident, but rather the response.
He says now the city requested a list of all permits with toxic materials from the county, awarded in the past, for code enforcement to inspect.
"Here's what we do know, we can't simply trust the county to do the business as usual when it comes to toxic materials permits and these labs, so we are now choosing to obtain the information and evaluate it for ourselves," said Arias.
If the ordinance passes, it will only be for future labs looking to operate in the city, which is why city officials requested a current toxic materials list from the county.
The ordinance will officially be presented at Thursday's city council meeting.