Health

AQMD cites another metal plant amid new chromium 6 spikes in Paramount

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Regional air regulators have cited another metal processor in the area near Paramount for excessive emissions of cancer-causing hexavalent chromium.  Meanwhile, Paramount officials are expressing alarm about large hexavalent chromium spikes detected earlier this month at several air monitors in the south Los Angeles city. 

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is seeking an order of abatement against Lubeco, Inc., a metal processor on the Long Beach side of the border with Paramount that serves the aerospace industry. Readings from an air monitor placed in front of the plant recorded excessive amounts of hexavelent chromium, also known as chromium 6, between May 13 and July 12, the AQMD said in its petition for the order.

The average concentration of the carcinogen over those two months was "approximately 18 times normal ambient air background levels," the agency said. It said the emissions pose a "significant" cancer risk (more than 100 in a million) to a "considerable" number of people living nearby, as well as to the faculty, staff and students of an elementary school "located within 1,000 feet of the facility."Alondra Middle School is three blocks north of Lubeco.

The air district said the metal processor has "indicated a willingness to stipulate to an Order for Abatement," and that it's discussing terms and conditions with the air district.

The AQMD's Hearing Board is scheduled to consider the petition on Aug. 23. Lubeco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Paramount Mayor Peggy Lemons is concerned about a raft of chromium 6 spikes at several other air monitors on July 12, 15 and 18.

The emissions are among the highest average readings over the course of a week in Paramount since the AQMD first started investigating chromium 6 emissions from metal processors there last October.

In a statement issued on Friday, Lemons called the high readings a "huge disappointment," adding, "after weeks of progress on air quality, we have taken a major step backward."

Lemons said the AQMD informed her that it's working "extremely hard" to determine what's behind the elevated emissions. The air district said in a statement that its staff is "actively reviewing the recent data to help identify the source or sources of the higher readings." 

After AQMD detected the initial spikes last fall, AQMD identified two metal processors - Anaplex Corp. and Aerocraft Heat Treating Co. - that it accused of emitting too much chromium 6.

Under abatement orders adopted by the AQMD's Hearing Board in December and January, both companies agreed to ensure their emissions of the carcinogen don't exceed an average of 1 nanogram per cubic meter, based on three air samples over the course of a week. Both firms have been forced to temporarily shut down their chromium operations multiple times for surpassing that threshold.

Air district spokesman Sam Atwood said the threshold is designed to greatly reduce the cancer risk for Paramount residents.

Between July 12 and July 18, at least three monitors near Aerocraft and Anaplex had average readings exceeding 3 nanograms per cubic meter. A few blocks away, in the southern portion of Paramount, three monitors exceeded an average of 4 nanograms per cubic meter during that same period.

Chromium 6 spikes earlier this year led the AQMD to investigate three other Paramount metal processors,  although the agency has yet to cite those facilities.

The problems with chromium 6 in Paramount led the AQMD to launch a multi-year initiative to monitor for toxic emissions from some of the 111 chromium plating and anodizing plants in the air district’s jurisdiction.

The initiative's first targets were two metal plants in Compton.

Chromium 6 has been associated with lung cancer when inhaled over long periods of time, typically years to decades, according to the AQMD.