By William Odis Martin
PARAMOUNT - Concerned parents, teachers, and community leaders assembled on Tuesday night at the Paramount Community Center for a town hall meeting to voice their frustrations and hear the newest developments from the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s unprecedented investigation into air toxins.
Although there has been measurable progress since last October, when the investigation began, there are still three schools-- Lincoln Elementary, Wesley Gaines Elementary, and Mokler Elementary-- showing elevated risks due to high levels of Hexavalent Chromium, also known as Chromium 6.
SCAQMD announced that they filed a petition, also known as an Order of Abatement, against Carlton Forge Works in order to reduce the pungent odors that have become a nuisance to the community.
“Although Carlton Forge Works has made some changes to its operation, it continues to be a frequent source of odors affecting the quality of life of many Paramount residents and school children,” said Wayne Nastri, SCAQMD’s Executive Officer. “We are seeking this order to facilitate curtailment of the odors as quickly as possible.”
According to the SCAQMD website, Carlton Forge Works has been cited 17 Notices of Violation of the agency’s Rule 402 since December 9, 2016.
For many decades now, residents have complained of poor air quality and horrendous odors being emitted from the hundreds of metal working factories and refineries throughout the city.
SCAQMD has now finally stepped in and are conducting independent air quality testings to stop metal factories from emitting egregious amounts of the odorless yet cancerous Chromium 6.
In October of last year, SQAQMD discovered that there were hotspots around the city that registered more than 350 times the acceptable amount of the cancer causing agent, according to an L.A. Times report. Since then, about 30 air quality monitors have been placed throughout the city to test quality of the air.
These monitors help the agency point out the gross polluters, who then are fined and issued a notice by SCAQMD, resulting in a significant reduction of the hazardous metal in the air.
During Tuesday’s meeting, a 48-year resident who identified herself as Sandra K. stood up before the assembly and expressed her concerns.
“We are being affected, especially in the evening times when the winds change,” she said. “All of a sudden, eyes start getting red, and the nose clogs up. And then, all of a sudden, you can’t breathe. Then I find myself having these fits of hacking and coughing that go on for hours.”
Sandra claims that she suffers from many ailments that are a direct result to the industrious community in which she has spent the majority of her life. She thanked SCAQMD for its work in the city so far and applauded its determination in getting these gross polluters to cutback their odorous and sometime dangerous emissions.
Worried parents pointed out that the playgrounds at Lincoln Elementary School are constantly saturated with fine dust particles that contain heavy metals that are being absorbed and inhaled by their children as they play outside everyday.
Tania Robles, a lifelong Paramount resident, said many former teachers of hers have been diagnosed with cancer over the years.
“It saddens me very much that a significant amount of teachers I grew up with had to battle this horrible disease that they were exposed while at work. It is crucial for action to be taken in order to prevent cancer from entering the lives of teachers and students. It was once an idea of mine to send my future children to the elementary school I went to, but with this information, I will not put my children at risk,” said Robles.
A spokesman for the school district claimed that filtration systems have already been installed in the air conditioning units at the schools but admits that the air is only cleaned when the AC is running and that the children are unprotected from poor air quality when outside of the classrooms.
One mother approached the mic with a stern face and a list of hard-hitting, deliberate questions for the panel of air quality experts, but was soon reduced to tears once she got to her last question: “Will I be able to watch my children grow up?”
Acute exposure to Chromium 6 has not been found to be dangerous or to cause any type of ailments, though long term exposure to the heavy metal is proven to be extremely dangerous and could even lead to deadly cancers.
The agency claims it is going to continue to closely monitor the situation while remaining transparent in its enforcement of air quality standards throughout the city.
For any questions or concerns regarding your local air quality, call 1-800-CUT-SMOG.