PARAMOUNT — The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is taking action against two metal-processing facilities here that the agency suspects are emitting a cancer-causing compound.
The district petitioned the South Coast hearing board to issue an order for abatement Nov. 29 to the Anaplex and Aerocraft facilities for their release of hexavalent chromium. The order requires them to reduce their emissions or close operations, a measure reserved for serious violations, according to the agency.
“We can’t be 100 percent sure that it’s these two [companies], but that’s the best approach at this point,” said Joseph Lyou, a member of the air quality governing board. He is also the president and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air, a statewide nonprofit organization.
“It’s such a complicated situation,” he said. “There are 17 facilities it could be among.”
The agency also will include in the order any other facilities it finds to contribute to the high compound levels.
The hearing board will begin reviewing the case at 9 a.m. on Dec. 14 at SCAQMD headquarters in Diamond Bar. Members of the public may testify during the hearing, which is expected to last several days. All proceedings are webcast to a link at www.aqmd.gov.
Aerocraft said in a statement that it has not received notice from the air control district, but that it is “conducting a review of its processes and will continue to cooperate with the district’s ongoing investigation.”
“Aerocraft will take necessary actions to resolve any issues that may be identified,” the statement said.
The two industrial companies both serve aviation industries. Anaplex is a metal processing company and Aerocraft is a heat-treating firm for aircraft manufacture and maintenance. The sites are located about three to four blocks from each other.
SCAQMD inspectors Nov. 30 also served a notice of violation to Anaplex for failing to comply with several agency regulations, including those concerning prohibiting public nuisance, regulating emissions from chrome plating and related operations and operating and/or modifying equipment without a required permit.
Hexavalent chromium compounds are used as pigments in dyes, paints, inks and plastics. They are also added to paints, primers and other surface coatings as an anticorrosive agent. The compound gained infamy in the 2000 film “Erin Brokovich” as a pollutant in the water of Hinkley, Calif.
Although prolonged exposure to hexavalent chromium can cause cancer, Sam Atwood of SCAQMD said, “I don’t think it’s an immediate concern for public health. The levels are not high enough to lead to short-term affects.”
But according to Lyou, the pollution poses a “long-term problem” since many Paramount residents live close to industrial sites, he said.
In a letter, the Paramount City Council criticized the air district staff of failing to provide transparency, as it presented information in “jargon-heavy, scientific ways,” and delivered a “highly technical” presentation to residents.
On the city’s website, Mayor Daryl Hofmeyer said his goal working with the SCAQMD is to set up more briefings and public meetings, as well as requesting district officials to present information in “layman’s terms.”
The investigations in Paramount began in 2013, when residents complained of a metallic odor. After monitoring the air, SCAQMD found two metals of concern: hexavalent chromium and nickel, a toxic metal that affects the lungs.
The SCAQMD targeted Carlton Forge Works, a metal-processing operation, to improve its pollution controls. That reduced the presence of nickel but not hexavalent chromium.
The agency resumed its investigation in October, which uncovered hexavalent chromium upwind of Carlton Forge Works. The compound was found at more than 350 times normal levels.
The SCAQMD is holding weekly informational conference calls in English and Spanish to provide updates on the ongoing air monitoring activities. They are held on Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The English toll-free call-in is (866) 244-8528 and the listen-only passcode is 4063768.
Spanish-speakers can call (888) 394-8197) and enter passcode 9891238.