Paramount firms take steps to limit chromium 6

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The two Paramount metal processing firms accused by the South Coast Air Quality Management District of emitting high levels of the carcinogen hexavalent chromium said Friday they are taking steps to ensure their facilities and procedures are in compliance with environmental regulations. But one of the companies is disputing some of the AQMD's findings tying it to the elevated emission levels.

Aerocraft Heat Treating Company and Anaplex Corp. listed the steps they have taken and plan to take in letters to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The department issued a directive Thursday saying that, based on the AQMD's analysis, the companies are violating the state health and safety code and endangering the health of the Paramount community. 

The directive said the two firms must resolve the problem, even it means a partial or full shutdown of their operations. Public Health gave the companies 24 hours to submit a list of actions they had already taken to stop elevated emissions of the pollutant, as well as steps they plan in the future.

The health department acted after the AQMD on Tuesday asked its hearing board to order the companies to stop operations resulting in excessive hexavalent chromium emissions and mitigate the problem.

The general manager of Aerocraft Heat Treating Company, Inc., Greg Stonick, said in his letter that the company "has adopted an aggressive approach to minimize our emissions, " which includes taking "multiple actions to minimize our potential to emit hexavalent chromium." The firm will take additional steps in the coming days, he said.

Anaplex President Carmen Campbell said her firm "fully intends to comply" with the AQMD's order of abatement. At the same time, she said "our initial investigation leads us to believe there may be misunderstandings" in the data collected or assessed by AQMD from its monitoring of the area around Anaplex.

Anaplex said it has taken steps to address the issue. It raised concerns, though, that the facility was closed or not using processes that emit chromium 6 on at least two days that air district monitors recorded some of the highest emissions levels.

"As a result of this preliminary analysis, it may be premature to attribute all of the chromium detected to Anaplex," Campbell said.

Aerocraft is already working with the AQMD to mitigate the problem, Stonick said, noting that his staff met with the agency Thursday for two-and-a-half hours "to discuss our findings regarding possible chromium sources and our action plan" for minimizing future emissions of hexavalent chromium, also called chromium 6.

"I understand the air district is supportive of the actions we are taking and believes we are proceeding appropriately," Stonick said. "Rest assured we will persist until we are confident of the effectiveness of our response."

Officials at the Public Health department were unavailable to respond to the two firms' letters.

Anaplex letter to L.A. County Department of Public Health

Aerocraft Letter to L.A. County Department of Public Health

The AQMD claims that there are other firms in the south L.A. city emitting dangerously high levels of chromium 6. The air district says any additional Paramount companies it identifies as violators will be added to the petition seeking a Dec. 14 order of abatement from its hearing board.

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.