South Coast Air Quality Management District Engages in Political Witch Hunt
This past week, the staff of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) showed how some government employees can crush the will of a legitimate small business community through inconclusive and highly speculative information. This community town hall meeting in Compton was a textbook example of how science and facts don’t matter – it’s all about politics and hysteria.
When Community-based groups in Paramount and Compton sent me an invitation to attend the AQMD town hall in Compton, I expected to witness how a small group of companies were polluting the air with hexavalent chromium (chromium 6), a deadly chemical that can potentially cause cancer. But what I found wasn’t some evil business owners putting the community at risk.
Far from it. Instead, I noticed a bunch of rogue government workers making up the rules as the meeting progressed.
Dr. Jason Low (AQMD assistant deputy executive officer, monitoring and analysis, science & technology advancement, talked about all the air monitoring samples collected throughout Compton and the various readings (see chart: http://www.aqmd.gov/docs/default-source/air-toxics-initiative/compton/monitoring-data-map.pdf?sfvrsn=77).
As a speaker came up and asked why there were spikes in chromium 6 readings during the weekends, when the machine shops were closed (especially on Sunday), Dr. Low could only say:
“Those are some of the challenges associated with air monitoring and our team is looking at other potential sources, we take obviously looking at the operational data for facilities, but I also mentioned we are looking at other non-facility sources such as road construction, such as other facts that we can look at winds to determine if there is other locations that these elevated levels are coming from. So we are not just looking at the facility approach, but potentially other sources.”
In other words, the AQMD doesn’t really know or can’t pinpoint where the chromium 6 is coming from. Road construction? Cement shops? Vehicles?
So why the fixation on mom and pop metal finishing companies?
And what about another important questions: What is chromium 6 and what do the state law and/or regulatory agencies say are the maximum amount of safe levels for chromium 6 in our local communities?
Chrome 6 is a form of the metallic element chromium. Chromium is a naturally occurring element found in rocks, animals, plants, soil, and volcanic dust and gases. It comes in several different forms, including trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium. You can find chromium in the following items:
- electroplating (such as chrome plating and anodizing operations)
- stainless steel production
- welding and cutting with metals containing chrome
- high heat processes
- leather tanning
- textile manufacturing
- wood preservation
- dust from sanding in auto repair shops
- paint overspray from auto repair shops (spraying operations using chromate based primers and coatings)
- any activity involving chromate such as: pigments, spray paints, coatings, or operating chrome plating baths
So we did some digging around and found that AQMD’s executive director Wayne Nastri decided to come up with some arbitrary and non-scientific Chrome 6 levels that are radically out of step with the world’s most respected governmental regulatory bodies:
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (2006) set a 5,000 nanograms per cubic meter for workers in general industry. https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=18599&p_table=federal_register
- The European Commission – Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (2017) set a limit of 1,000 nanograms per cubic meter. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0ahUKEwj_yLr4s5vVAhVEzIMKHdltAKwQFggmMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.confindustriabergamo.it%2Faree-di-interesse%2Fsicurezza%2Fallegati%2Falleg-2-all-alleg-2-scoel-rec-386-chromium-vi-compounds-reccomandation&usg=AFQjCNGmoGBe10YboUWEe1kQVy5wfxvq1g
- National Institute of Occupation Safety and Health, Center for Diseases Control (September 2013) recommended exposure limit of 200 nanograms per cubic meter for health protection. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2013-128/pdfs/2013_128.pdf
- Wayne Nastri’s standard: 1 nanogram per cubic meter
When Wayne was asked at Compton: “What rule are you working toward or against [that gives the AQMD the power to set a 1 nanogram limit]?”
“So what I decided, as I talked about, and looking at the public and the risk. It is a nuisance to the public. So I believe, and I am looking at our counsel, 402 of a nuisance.”
No State Law. No State Regulation. No County Rules
Wayne just decided it was a nuisance
How is that for government overreach and abuse of power?
When I arrived at the Compton town hall, I was expecting an entirely different outcome. As the meeting progressed my disgust became focused on a new set of people. I now felt pity for the poor business owners who were getting railroaded by the AQMD staff.
The random 1 nanogram, level that Wayne decided was enough for him to use the AQMD Rule 402 – Nuisance, shouldn’t be Wayne’s to decide. It should be based on science and hard evidence, not someone’s arbitrary decision.
In addition, taking Dr. Low’s testimony into account, if you can’t find the actual source of the pollutants, why blame one industry – especially when there are clear air monitoring spikes when the shops are closed?
Here is a very small list – based on a Google search of other businesses near the Compton air monitoring sites – that could be emitting chromium 6:
･ Reliable Pallet Supply, 2011 N Santa Fe Ave, Compton, CA 90221
･ World Oil Recycling, 2000 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Southeast Towing, 428 E Pine St, Compton, CA 90222
･ California Tires, 512 E Pine St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Southeast Auto Salvage, 415 E Pine St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Lu-Mar Industrial Metals Co. Ltd, 2120 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Magna Aluminum, 400 E Euclid Ave, Compton, CA 90222
･ Compton Steel Co Inc, 510 E Euclid Ave, Compton, CA 90222
･ Mitierra Polishing, 524 E Euclid Ave, Compton, CA 90222
･ Affordable Spray Booths, 536 E Euclid Ave, Compton, CA 90222
･ Sinaloa Iron Works, 606 E Euclid Ave, Compton, CA 90222
･ Kraco, 505 E Euclid Ave, Compton, CA 90222
･ Casanova Towing and Equipment, 417 E Euclid Ave, Compton, CA 90222
･ Magnesium Alloy Products Co, 2420 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Continental Forge Co Inc, 412 E El Segundo Blvd, Compton, CA 90222
･ Alameda Motor, 539 E Carlin Ave, Compton, CA 90222
･ Firewood of my Ranch Inc, 2609 N Santa Fe Ave, Compton, CA 90222
･ E.M.E. Inc (Plating), 500 E Pine St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Custom by Lopez, 13407 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Jeep Thrillz Off Road, 13401 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222
･ XXX Radiator, 13331 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Autoelectrico El Kora, 13321 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Freddy’s Ornamental Supplies, 13315 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Brooks Auto Services, 13233 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Dan’s Machine Works, 13201 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Luis Gonzalez Recycling, 13025 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Commercial Steel and Lube, 12925 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222
･ Jack Rubin & Sons Inc, 13103 Alameda St, Compton, CA 90222