Another Polluting L.A. County Manufacturer Has Nearby Residents Worried

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Add one more Los Angeles County manufacturing plant to the list of companies under scrutiny for toxic contamination in nearby residential neighborhoods.

Five years after people in the city of Paramount began complaining about burning metallic odors and unusual illness, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) told the community that Carlton Forge Works has not been a good neighbor.

At a town hall meeting (pdf) last month, AQMD officials said testing at and around the metal parts manufacturing facility discovered elevated levels of nickel, chromium, hexavalent chromium and cadmium. The agency also resported, via the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, that there are “historical deposition of toxic metals to surfaces and the soil in the community.”

Carlton Forge Works is just a few blocks from Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, where teacher Lisa Lappin told the Los Angeles Times she started agitating for an investigation five years ago when she noticed an unusual number of ill teachers and students, some with cancer.

High levels of nickel can damage lungs and cause asthma and bronchitis. It is also a carcinogen.

The AQMD received 55 complaints about odor in the area since 2012, although 42 of those were from the same unidentified person. The low-income neighborhood—35,000 people within a mile of the plant—is 79% Latino and 12% African-American, according to the Times.   

The plant joins two other Los Angeles County facilities that have been longtime sources of pollution to their surrounding communities but are only now beginning to be seriously challenged. Exide Technologies, an international battery recycler in the tiny city of Vernon, was sued for $40 million in Los Angeles County Superior Court by the AQMD last month. The civil suit alleges air quality violations, mostly involving illegal lead and arsenic emissions.

Allenco Energy Inc., between downtown Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, voluntarily shut down after inspectors for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) got sick while checking out complaints of respiratory problems, nausea, headaches, nosebleeds and the like.    

Carlton Forge Works has been in business since 1929. It produces and supplies components for commercial and military aviation, and land-based turbine engines using furnaces, grinders and presses. After its testing in August-October found “significantly higher than average” concentrations of metals in the air, compared to the rest of the basin, it told the company to move its grinders away from vents and closer to dust collection devices. The company agreed to clean up its mess more often and hire a consultant to test for emissions.

Meanwhile, the AQMD will continue with its own testing.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

School's Illnesses Point up Problems with Pollution Monitoring (by Tony Barboza and Jessica Garrison, Los Angeles Times)

Information Regarding Emissions from Carlton Forge Works (South Coast Air Quality Management District)

Air Monitoring at Carlton Forge Works (South Coast Air Quality Management District) (pdf)

Town Hall Meeting January 2014 (South Coast Air Quality Management District) (pdf)

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