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

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Canary Island palms tower above Melrose Avenue at night after the sun set on the popular 20th Century symbols of southern California which are fading into history because of a fatal fungus, old age, and city plans to replace them with other trees on October 18, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Originally imported by 18th century Spanish missionaries, the majestic Canary Island palms grow as high as a 12-story building but are threatened by an always-fatal fungus that is killing them at an alarming rate. 42% have been infected so far. Standing up to the fungus are the native California fan palms, endemic to southern California?s inland deserts, and the Mexican fan palm but all the populations are nearing the ends of their natural lives, having been planted mostly in the early 1900?s. City planners, led by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, intend to plant one millions trees to improve air quality but no palms, having fewer leaves to offset the effects of air pollution than other native varieties. Experts predict that Los Angeles will look very differently in coming decades as oaks and sycamores replace most the iconic palms loved by both tourists and residents.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18: Canary Island palms tower above Melrose Avenue at night after the sun set on the popular 20th Century symbols of southern California which are fading into history because of a fatal fungus, old age, and city plans to replace them with other trees on October 18, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Originally imported by 18th century Spanish missionaries, the majestic Canary Island palms grow as high as a 12-story building but are threatened by an always-fatal fungus that is killing them at an alarming rate. 42% have been infected so far. Standing up to the fungus are the native California fan palms, endemic to southern California?s inland deserts, and the Mexican fan palm but all the populations are nearing the ends of their natural lives, having been planted mostly in the early 1900?s. City planners, led by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, intend to plant one millions trees to improve air quality but no palms, having fewer leaves to offset the effects of air pollution than other native varieties. Experts predict that Los Angeles will look very differently in coming decades as oaks and sycamores replace most the iconic palms loved by both tourists and residents. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

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.