Fact Check

The items listed on this page cover various claims that have emerged or have been brought to the public’s attention by numerous sources regarding the current hexavalent chromium issue. Each claim is clarified or expanded upon to promote full transparency and understanding. This page will be updated continuously, as new claims emerge or need to be addressed. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

FACT:

When the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) began their investigation into the elevated levels of hexavalent chromium found by their long-term air quality monitoring efforts, the City of Paramount provided a list of metal-related businesses to assist the District in identifying the source of the carcinogen. Metal-related businesses were defined as: grinding, sanding, plating, electroplating, welding, deburring, heating, heat treating, straightening, forming, machining, cutting, rolling, pressing, forging, fabricating, polishing, milling, swaging, cooling, conversion coating, anodizing, passivation, and spray-coating operations.

This list, taken from Paramount’s permit database, contained 86 facilities located throughout the city. SCAQMD then added businesses of various types to this list of entities so as to inspect all facilities within their jurisdiction. These additions included businesses near Aerocraft Heat Treating and Anaplex Corporation, regardless of whether the business was metal-related, as well as businesses identified by community members who discovered these facilities primarily through Internet searches for metal-related businesses noted to be in the city. Further, the list grew as SCAQMD added facilities by identifying them through permits issued in Paramount for metal-related businesses. As a result of combining all these sources of information, the list of entities to be inspected grew to a total of 194 facilities and businesses. Hence, when SCAQMD states that they had investigated 194 businesses, this means that the District reviewed a list of 194 business entities that had been assembled from several sources and not all of which were metal-related.

Many of these 194 properties/businesses that were reviewed by SCAQMD were found to be either out of business, not located in Paramount, or not involved in metal-related activities. For example, SCAQMD and City Staff determined the following thirteen businesses were no longer operating: Hanks Sheet Metal, JM Metal Polishing, California Precision Deburring, Leavitts Metal Finishing, Luisteel Welding, Western Integrated Materials, Rosenberg Metals, United Sheet Metal, Aluminum Interior Moldings, El Tigre Metal Polish, Best Western Rolling, and E.S. Scales/Somerset Steel.

After extensive investigation, City Staff removed from the list all businesses that were not metal-related, any duplicate listings, and the entities that were no longer operating, listed above. The final number of metal-related facilities licensed to do business in Paramount totals 85, which amounts to 3% of total business licenses issued in the city. Of the 85 businesses, the City and SCAQMD determined that 68 of those businesses do not require SCAQMD permits for metal-related operations (examples include metal dealers, metal screw sales shops, metal supply shops, metal etching companies). To be clear, these businesses may have an SCAQMD permit for a backup generator or other equipment unrelated to metal processing.

The remaining 17 facilities require SCAQMD permits for metal-related processing (as of February 16, 2017).

To summarize: 194 names or locations were added onto a list assembled from multiple sources that was reviewed by SCAQMD; each name or address was investigated. After the investigation was completed, it was determined that there are 85 metal-related businesses in the city limits of Paramount. Of those 85 metal-related businesses, 68 do not require any permits from SCAQMD for metal-related processing. In total, 17 businesses do require SCAQMD permitting for metal-related work.

FACT:

While the City may have the authority to revoke a business license, it has no legal authority to force a business to close without court action. The City would be required to seek a court injunction to shut down a business. The City would be required to show evidence to the court , such as: high level emissions of hexavalent chromium that are, at least, substantially, coming from that particular business in order for a court to grant the injunction. It is more challenging when a business demonstrates to the court that it is currently taking measures to comply with AQMD’ s abatement order. In December 2016, the LA County Department of Public Health and SCAQMD have already attempted to use the courts to shut down the activities at the Anaplex Corporation facility, and that efforts failed in the courts.

With AQMD’ s Order of Abatement, if these companies are not able to comply and they continue on as “repeat offenders,” the fines associated with shut downs and loss of revenue from being closed, could likely result in these companies closing on their own accord. The City’s hope with SCAQMD’ s regulatory process is that these companies make the necessary changes that results in clean air (i.e., no more illegal emissions) and continued operations and employment for their workers.

FACT:

The first the City learned about elevated levels of hexavalent chromium was when a reporter called the City seeking comment on a press release from the South Coast Air Quality Management District about elevated levels of hexavalent chromium being detected in the community.

Prior to that, the City had attended and monitored hearings and procedures related to Carlton Forge that started in 2013 and lasted through 2016. At those meetings, SCAQMD presented data on elevated metals in the air and developed a plan with Carlton Forge to address those air quality concerns. In presentations provided by SCAQMD at those meetings, elevated hexavalent chromium levels were never expressed as a significant concern, however they were elevated enough to warrant additional monitoring in the industrial sector of the city. SCAQMD charts showing average hexavalent chromium readings for years 2013, 2014 and 2015 indicated that hexavalent chromium levels near the normal ambient levels of hexavalent chromium in the area (as measured by the SCAQMD monitor in Compton, CA).

Hexavalent Chromium History for Site #2

Hexavalent Chromium History for Site #3

The data on these charts was presented to the City and community at a SCAQMD town hall meeting in August 2016.

FACT:

Following state and federal guidelines, the City began testing for hexavalent chromium in 2014 and reported the results in the 2014 Consumer Confidence Report available here. To address concerns that hexavalent chromium had contaminated the City’s water supply the City had the water tested again in December 2016 and the presence of hexavalent chromium levels were less than 1 part per billion, a level that is considered healthy. Further, the City has committed to continued testing of hexavalent chromium in the water supply every month for the foreseeable future. The monthly results can be found on the Hexavalent Chromium Test Results page.

FACT:

The City of Paramount was approached by the Department of Toxic Substances (DTSC) in 2013 to execute soil testing in Village Park. The City, at the direction of the prior city manager, asked the DTSC to first test across the street (in a parkway at the southwest corner of Illinois/Somerset) where the work would be less intrusive than inside the park. The City further instructed DTSC that, should the soil sample be contaminated, the City would work with DTSC to access Village Park for further testing. The City never heard back from DTSC. In 2015, DTSC subsequently requested to test the soil in Village Park and the City agreed to work with DTSC, but first requested that DTSC provide a plan of when, how and who would do the testing, including outlining ownership of any damage done during the testing. The City never heard from DTSC until the issue re-surfaced again at a community meeting in November of 2016. At this meeting, the City immediately agreed to conduct soil testing.

FACT:

The City has implemented a moratorium on the addition or expansion of metal-related businesses since the City learned about the elevated hexavalent chromium levels found by the the SCAQMD. The City has already denied requests for new or expanding metal-related businesses since the moratorium was put in place. The moratorium was set for an initial 45 day period and expire on January 24th. The Council extended the moratorium an additional six months and may extend the moratorium up to a total of two years. Certain exceptions in the extended moratorium allow for improvements at existing businesses that will enhance air quality or are non-production related improvements (examples: security, employee break areas, parking lot improvements).

FACT:

The City of Paramount does not issue permits specific to metal businesses. The City issues business licenses as part of its normal business licensing process. The City’s business issuance process for new businesses includes a self-identification process for the business to review their requirements to seek air quality permits from the SCAQMD. Businesses that self-identify as requiring SCAQMD permits must then contact SCAQMD to apply for those permits. The City is reviewing this process with SCAQMD to determine methods more effective than self-identification. Any new process will apply to new business license applicants. Also, it should be noted that the two businesses that have been identified by SCAQMD as the main sources of high hexavalent chromium emissions have had air quality permits from the SCAQMD for a several years.

While business licensing is a tool that can be leveraged to engage more SCAQMD oversight, the City’s land use policy determines whether the type of business is even acceptable on the property on which it will operate. Hence, a business that seeks to operate a metal-related business in the City’s M-2 manufacturing zone has a right to open that business under current land use rules in the City. The City does not limit a specific number of businesses that are metal-related in the City.

FACT:

The City does not have jurisdiction over the Paramount Unified School District (PUSD). The District is its own legal entity with its own controls and authority. Further, school district lands across California are subject to control and oversight of the State of California, Division of State Architect and not the City. The City does not have authority to require or dictate how and what the Paramount Unified School District does with their land or buildings.

The City has encouraged SCAQMD to install air monitors at the schools in Paramount Unified School District, and the Schools have allowed that to happen. The monitors will be eventually used at each campus to test the air. Results of the testing can be found on the SCAQMD website here.

Further, a PUSD representative is participating in the Air Quality Sub Committee and providing perspective and insights from PUSD.

FACT:

City council members and city staff have attended nearly every meeting held by SCAQMD in relation to air quality concerns in the City since the first town hall meeting on the matter in 2016. Meetings that have had council members or city staff representation include:

  • SCAQMD Town Hall Meeting on August 16, 2016
  • 2nd Working Group & Public Consultation Meeting for Proposed Rule 1430 on September 14, 2016
  • 3rd Working Group & Public Consultation Meeting for Proposed Rule 1430 on October 26, 2016
  • SCAQMD Town Hall Meeting on November 9, 2016
  • 4th Working Group & Public Consultation Meeting for Proposed Rule 1430 on December 1, 2016
  • SCAQMD Regular Governing Board Meeting December 2, 2016
  • SCAQMD Town Hall Meeting on December 12, 2016
  • SCAQMD Hearing Board Meeting on December 14, 2016
  • SCAQMD Hearing Board Meeting (on Aerocraft/Anaplex) on December 16, 2016
  • County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors Meeting on December 20, 2016
  • SCAQMD Continued Hearing Board Meeting (on Anaplex) on January 10, 2017
  • 5th Working Group & Public Consultation Meeting for Proposed Rule 1430 on January 11, 2017
  • Public Workshop for Rule 1430 on January 19, 2017
  • Public Consultation Meeting for Proposed Rule 1430 on January 25, 2017
  • 6th Working Group & Public Consultation Meeting for Proposed Rule 1430 on February 1, 2017
  • SCAQMD Hearing Board Meeting on February 2, 2017

FACT:

There is a provision in the State Health and Safety Code that confirms the authority and function of South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) with respect to air quality regulation, but also purports to allow any regulated agency within the SCAQMD to apply stricter air quality regulations than SCAQMD; provided those regulations are not in conflict with SCAQMD regulations.

The provision falls under section 40449 and reads as follows:

§ 40449. Cities or counties; adoption of ordinances stricter than district rules and regulations; assistance of district
(a) No provision of this chapter is a limitation on the power of any city or county included, in whole or in part, within the south coast district to adopt any ordinance with respect to air pollution control which is stricter than the rules and regulations adopted by the south coast district board and not in conflict therewith. The south coast district board shall enforce any such ordinance.
(b) At the request of the governing body of any city or county included, in whole or in part, within the south coast district, the south coast district board may make available, on a temporary basis, the necessary personnel, equipment, and services to assist in adopting any ordinance stricter than the rules and regulations adopted by the south coast district.

The Paramount City Attorney inquired of other city attorneys representing cities within the SCAQMD and found that this section of state law has not been implemented in other cities. In addition, the City has asked both TetraTech – one of the largest environmental consulting firms in the world and SCAQMD – the most advanced and knowledgeable air quality agency in the world – to find out whether other cities have used this authority. Neither could identify a city or county that has used this provision to develop their own air quality regulations.

The City has consulted with its environmental consultants, TetraTech, about their opinion of the City adopting more stringent standards than SCAQMD, and they have raised a number concerns for the City to consider. First, no matter what standards are developed for air quality, the City must be prepared to not only establish scientific data to support that standard, but also successfully defend the data in the event the data is challenged as being arbitrary. Science is costly. Lawsuits are costly. If the City creates an arbitrarily low standard that is not supported by scientific data, the City risks costly litigation as well as the City having to pay for attorney’s fees of the other party should it lose. As a City, Paramount lacks the experience, expertise and long term resources to regulate air quality as effectively as SCAQMD does.

Creating regulations supported with sound scientific data is an area where SCAQMD has clear advantages. Consider a comparison of the staff size and budget of SCAQMD with 813 staff and $141M budget to the City of Paramount’s 91 staff and a $43M budget, Paramount is dwarfed by SCAQMD’s budget and expertise. Consider also that SCAQMD has scientists, attorneys and engineers who only focus on air quality.

FACT:

The raw, untreated water at Well 13 does register levels of arsenic that border or exceed the EPA’s MCL for the compound. However, the water produced at Well 13 goes through the water treatment plant located at this well. This process removes arsenic, along with manganese, to meet all State and Federal Drinking Water Standards, as stated in the City’s Water Consumer Report. Further, the water is disinfected through chlorination, which is the case for all water either produced by the City’s water utility or is imported through the Metropolitan Water District.

FACT:

The City of Paramount has its water tested by independent labs on a regular basis to make sure there are no impurities or dangerous levels of contaminants in the supply delivered to consumers. One component that is looked at monthly is the presence of arsenic.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a maximum contamination level (MCL) for arsenic of 10 ppb. Amounts of the chemical above this are considered unsafe for drinking, while levels below are considered safe.

In its raw, naturally occurring state, the water pumped from the ground at Well #13 does, on average, have an amount of arsenic that exceeds the EPA’s maximum contamination level. However, that water is treated and cleansed – like all water in the Paramount system – so what residents receive has insignificant traces of arsenic well within the safe levels as determined by the EPA.

The State of California checks on the quality of Paramount’s water. If they found unsafe levels or any chemical, including arsenic, they would shut our water utility down.

That has never happened in Paramount.

It was recently posted on social media that Paramount’s water exceeded the MCL for arsenic in 2008 and 2009 as described in the City’s Consumer Confidence Reports for those years. That posting chose to ignore a footnote in the CCR that stated: “While your drinking water meets the federal and state standard for arsenic, it does contain low levels of arsenic. … For this well system, the filtration treatment technique is used to remove arsenic and manganese from the water prior to distribution. Water after treatment is in compliance and below the MCL.”

One of the City’s most important and serious duties is providing safe, clean water to its residents. That will never change; Paramount’s water has always been, and will continue to be, completely safe for any use.

FACT:

According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), the sample for Site #19 on May 1st was not collected: it was used for an off-schedule sample that was collected on May 3rd. Due to the off-schedule sample on May 3rd, the typical May 4th sample was not collected. The normal schedule for sampling will resume on May 7th. SCAQMD is preparing another sampler so they do not have to alter the schedule for Site #19 to collect on off-schedule sample in the future.

Additionally, the portable City samplers should not have been marked on the ambient data spreadsheet. They will be removed, as the City monitor would not have been at Site #19 after the initial sample. The portable samplers are being implemented into the rotation of SCAQMD samplers. The agency will clarify this on their Expanded Monitoring Data and Map spreadsheet.

FACT:

When Paramount was incorporated as a city in 1957, it inherited land uses that the County of Los Angeles had put in place. All of the industrial zones in Paramount predate the City’s incorporation. Since then, the City has worked to continue making land use and zoning changes to remove many blighted and industrial uses. For example, when The Home Depot was added, this replaced a large swath of industrial property with commercial retail space. In addition, the City has worked to ensure that various uses match the appropriate zone. Since 1963, no new housing has been allowed to be built in the City’s core industrial area.

FACT:

Tetra Tech provided the following response to the City regarding this accusation:

“Tetra Tech has never been tried or convicted of falsifying soil samples. The allegations made on recent newscasts are unsubstantiated and there is no evidence to support the accusations.

“When sample results at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard appeared not to be representative at the site, Tetra Tech immediately investigated and reported its findings and corrective actions to the Navy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. No restriction, suspension or qualification of any license, certification, or registration occurred, and Tetra Tech’s NRC Radioactive Material License is in full good standing.”