On Thursday, July 27, the City Council Air Quality Sub Committee met for the seventh time since its creation at the end of 2016. The Sub Committee has a standing plan to meet every fourth Thursday of each month at Progress Park Plaza.
After a quick discussion about the Sub Committee’s temporary nature – by law, sub committees can only be in place for a specific period of time and will have to disband once it has reached its goals – Assistant City Manager Kevin Chun rearranged the agenda, requesting that group wait to go over potential operational regulations until all Sub Committee Members had arrived to participate.
Paramount’s environmental consultant, Tetra Tech, presented an air quality update to open the meeting. Consultant Eddy Huang described the air quality reference points for two regulatory agencies: the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). His goal was to give the community a comprehensive view of the various standards set by both the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and other applicable regulatory agencies, so that the public could then understand the short- and long-term health effects of hexavalent chromium.
Following the explanation of the various standards, Mr. Huang went over SCAQMD’s enforcement actions to-date, including the issuance of Carlton Forge’s Stipulated Order for Abatement. He additionally covered the agency’s air quality data, discussing the two-week widespread increase in hexavalent chromium levels throughout the City and region during the month of July.
Consultant Randy Westhaus then informed the group of the soil and dust sampling results from Village Park. Both the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and Tetra Tech took separate samples for independent testing; both samples came back with similar results, showing that the soil does not contain hazardous levels of hexavalent chromium and CAM 17 metals (a list of 17 heavy metals commonly used in industry). DTSC has confirmed that no additional investigation is required at the park.
After Tetra Tech’s presentations, Mr. Chun and Planning Manager John King led a Sub Committee discussion on potential operational regulations for metal companies. At previous meetings, the Sub Committee had discussed non-operational regulations; grounded by that discussion, they could move forward in choosing which, if any, operational changes to the zoning ordinance could be applied. Mr. King laid out suggestions for stricter business regulations. For instance, the group could recommend changing permitted uses to either conditionally permitted uses (CUPs) or prohibited uses, changing some CUP uses to prohibited uses, and outright prohibiting any uses that are not clearly addressed in the zoning code at all.
“We’re trying to fix some of the problems from the past,” Mr. Chun explained. These reclassification examples are significant and fairly drastic, as the majority of uses will go from currently permitted to prohibited. Existing companies may continue operating, but no future companies can set up in the same way within the City.
If the Sub Committee agrees on adding all the reclassification examples to the current zoning code, the group’s recommendations for both operational and non-operational regulations can be reviewed by the City Council in September or October. After review by the Council, the regulations would be reviewed by the Planning Commission, and then again by the Council for approval in October or November, at which point the moratorium on metal-related businesses would end.
John Carver, the City’s Assistant Community Development Director, closed out the meeting’s new business items with a presentation on Green Businesses. Once any changes to the zoning code are made, the City would like to attract new businesses that are environmentally friendly. Mr. Carver recommended working with the Long Beach City College’s Small Business Development Center to engage the business community. Any new businesses that are recommended by the SMDC should match the City’s environmental goals and standards, and could potentially replace existing industrial businesses.
The next Air Quality Sub Committee meeting is on Thursday, August 31 at 6 p.m. in Progress Park Plaza (15500 Downey Avenue).