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LA County Health Department orders Paramount plant to stop emitting odors

A view of the Los Angeles city skyline as heavy smog shrouds the city in California on May 31, 2015.           AFP PHOTO/ MARK RALSTON        (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A view of the Los Angeles city skyline as heavy smog shrouds the city in California on May 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has ordered a metal processing facility in the city of Paramount to immediately stop emitting metallic odors that can cause headaches, nausea, and eye, nose and throat irritation to people living nearby. The order comes in the wake of a similar move by air regulators.

Interim Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser issued the order last Friday to Carlton Forge Works. He said the odors constitute a public nuisance, as they cause health problems and affect residents' overall quality of life and sense of well-being.

"Carlton Forge Works is hereby directed to urgently take all necessary actions to abate the nuisance," Gunzenhauser said in the order. He gave the company 24 hours to respond and signal its intent to comply with the directive.

As of mid-afternoon Monday, Carlton Forge had not responded to the county, according to Angelo Bellomo, Public Health's deputy director for health protection. It also had not responded to KPCC's request for comment.

Public Health's directive comes days after the South Coast Air Quality Management District filed a petition for an administrative order that would require Carlton Forge to reduce the odors. The air district said it has received more than 190 odor complaints regarding odors allegedly emanating from the facility and issued 18 citations to the company since December for allegedly emitting odors.

The AQMD's independent Hearing Board is slated to hold a hearing regarding the petition on July 13.

In response to the air district's move, Carlton Forge General Manager Luis Liu said the allegation was "without merit."

The company is "disappointed that SCAQMD has chosen to pursue the Petition as [Carlton Forge] has acted in good faith, cooperated with SCAQMD, and taken measures to minimize potential odors," he said in a statement.

County supervisor Janice Hahn asked Public Health to issue the directive to strengthen and add to AQMD's order.

Bellomo said Public Health's directive underscores to the company that the health department and the AQMD consider Carlton Forge to be a significant source of emissions in the community and are working together to restore conditions.

"What you really have are industrial processes that are in close proximity to where people live, and it's contributing to the degraded conditions within this community," he said.

In response to complaints about metallic odors in Paramount, the district began conducting ambient monitoring of toxic metal emissions in 2013. The monitoring showed elevated levels of nickel and hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen.

In 2014 and 2015, AQMD worked with Carlton Forge to reduce metal particulate emissions from its grinding operation. The company implemented a number of voluntary measures that substantially reduced nickel levels in the neighborhood.

Those measures did not decrease hexavalent chromium levels in the community, so AQMD also deployed several air monitors. The agency identified two Paramount metal processors that it said were contributing to those levels; they agreed to plans to lower their emissions of hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6.