The South Coast Air Quality Management District has concluded that two Paramount metal processing firms are the sources of at least some of the high levels of the carcinogen hexavalent chromium detected recently in the area. Arguing that the excess emissions pose "a significant risk of cancer to workers and residents," the agency is asking its hearing board to order the companies to stop their noncompliant operations and mitigate the problem.
The two companies are Aerocraft Heat Treating Co. and Anaplex Corp. In October, AQMD staff found hexavalent chromium emissions near the two facilities "orders of magnitude greater than typical background levels," according to the agency's petition for an Order of Abatement.
Monitoring and observations on Thanksgiving Day further confirmed Anaplex and Aeroplex as sources of elevated emissions, it added. Anaplex was closed for the holiday, and emissions fell to background levels. Aerocraft stayed open, and air monitors found continued elevated levels, the AQMD said.
The air district said Anaplex had installed equipment without receiving proper authorization and then operated that equipment without valid permits. It also accused the company of failing to obtain the permits needed to alter certain equipment.
Anaplex will respond to the petition once it has a chance to examine it, said company President and Controller Carmen Campbell.
While Aerocraft has not yet received notice of the petition from the air district, it's already "conducting a review of its processes and will continue to cooperate with the [AQMD's] ongoing investigation," said spokeswoman Jenny Dudikoff. "Aerocraft will take necessary actions to resolve any issues that may be identified," she said.
The air agency claims that there are other firms in the south Los Angeles city emitting dangerously high levels of hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6. The AQMD said any additional Paramount companies it identifies as violators will be added to the petition, which seeks a hearing on Dec. 14.
The AQMD defines an "acceptable" cancer risk level as 25 in a million, and a risk of 100 in a million or higher as a "significant" risk level.
The district started monitoring the air in Paramount in 2013, after community members complained about metallic odors. Residents believed the source of the odors was Carleton Forge Works.
Since then, Carleton Forge voluntarily implemented new measures to reduce emissions and odors. The district said the changes reduced the levels of nickel in the air.
But monitoring shows that chromium 6 levels have been increasing over the past year. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Toxicology Program has determined that chromium 6 is a human carcinogen.
The AQMD deployed eight additional monitors in Paramount in mid-October; they first registered the extremely high chromium 6 levels on Oct. 27.
Chromium 6 is best known for the so-called Erin Brockovich case. Brockovich was a legal clerk who helped win a massive lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric in the 1990s over the alleged contamination of drinking water in the southern California town of Hinkley. PG&E had used chromium 6 in the cooling system of a compressor station.
This story has been updated to reflect that Carmen Campbell is president of Anaplex Corp., as well as its controller.