Officials Sue Paramount Metal-Processing Plant Over Emissions Of Cancer-Causing Substance

Note: this story has been updated to include a statement from Anaplex Corp. president Carmen Campbell.

Officials have filed a lawsuit against a Paramount metal-processing plant they allege is emitting high levels of a cancer-causing substance into the air.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles County and the South Coast Air Quality Management District filed suit against Anaplex Corp, who they say is contributing to air levels of hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, 350-times higher than average in a Paramount neighborhood. The suit would seek penalties against Anaplex and order them to lower the emission levels of chromium 6.

Anaplex is just one of two plants in the area that is said to be causing the elevated levels of chromium 6, but AQMD spokesman Sam Atwood explained to LAist that the Aerocraft Heat Treating Co. entered into an agreement on Friday with officials to cut down on emissions. "Aerocraft agreed with AQMD to take 22 actions to reduce hexavalent chromium emissions and also to cease operations if the outside levels of hexavalent chromium exceeded a threshold," Atwood said. "Anaplex essentially declined to enter into that agreement."

Anaplex's lawyers sent a letter to the AQMD on Tuesday, agreeing to the same terms as Aerocraft, according to KPCC, but pending a board order. The next board meeting is January 5 and Atwood says the AQMD is not willing to wait.

"While the City respects that a proper legal hearing process must be followed, it also believes strongly that actions should be taken by the responsible regulatory agencies to ensure emissions of hexavalent chromium do not exceed ambient levels," Mayor Daryl Hofmeyer and the Paramount City Council said in a joint statement regarding the actions by the AQMD. "The City will continue to aid regulatory agencies in their efforts throughout the holidays to make progress prior to the next hearing."

"We have communicated clearly, both verbally and in writing, to the South Coast Air Quality Management District our full intention to comply with the same abatement order approved by the SCAQMD Hearing Board on Friday, December 16, 2016 for Aerocraft," Anaplex president Carmen Campbell said in a statement to LAist. "While we are disappointed that the SCAQMD, as quoted in media reports, feels they need to punish our 70 employees and their families, we hope the SCAQMD reconsiders the purpose of its regulations and works with Anaplex on focusing its resources on issues that are important to the entire community—looking at all possible sources of emissions that endanger our families and schoolchildren."

Paramount is a largely Latino city, and residents have complained about metallic odors around the plants since at least 2013. In October, air quality monitors detected a concentrated spot of chromium 6 that was 350-times higher than acceptable levels. According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, AQMD is now also monitoring the air quality of six schools that are near the two plants.

Hexavalent chromium is the same substance Erin Brockovich successfully sued PG&E over for groundwater contamination in the town of Hinkley. When inhaled it can cause lung cancer.

Last year Anaplex was fined $142,000 by the EPA for failing to treat heavy metals they released in wastewater, such as cadmium, nickel and zinc.

Update [5:30]: A judge has denied the temporary restraining order against Anaplex that was filed by AQMD and the county.

Supervisor Janice Hahn, who instructed the county to file the suit, issued the following statement in response:

This is a disappointment to me and all of the residents of Paramount who continue to breathe poisonous air. I am going to remain aggressive in the fight on behalf of Paramount residents and continue to use every county resource available to pressure Anaplex to stop emissions.