Residents voice frustration after dangerous air quality found in Paramount

- “This community is angry,” teacher Michelle Lewis said. “They are very angry because they have not been heard.”

Speaking out about dangerous air quality, Lewis joined Paramount residents Monday night who told officials at a town hall meeting they want change.

Late October testing revealed a toxin called chromium-6 in the air where levels were 350 times the normal amount.

“We need to make sure that whatever was causing those high emissions in the first place will not happen ever again,” Sam Atwood, South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), said.

Air quality officials have linked two local metal processing companies, Anaplex Corp. and Aerocraft Heat Treating, to emitting high levels of the toxin.

Those companies are still operating despite opposition from Laurie Guillen and her community coalition.

“We have to stop being the dumping ground for these companies that can’t go anywhere else and they keep coming to our city,” Laurie Guillen, Paramount Community Coalition Against Toxin, said.

Health experts warn long-term exposure to chromium-6 can cause cancer and breathing problems.

The city will consider a temporary ban on metal businesses Tuesday night at the council meeting.

“Any elevated issues are unacceptable from our perspective and we want to work to make sure that does not happen in the future in our community,” Ryder Smith, City of Paramount Spokesperson, said.

But for some who say they’ve been complaining for years, it’s too late.

One man told officials he’s been suffering from a chronic lung disease since he was 15-years-old. Lewis said she sees problems in her classroom.

“I’ve had three leukemia patients in my classroom,” she said. “I’ve had children with serious birth defects, and asthma every year is getting worse.”

Investigators have inspected 170 businesses in the city and cited 43 for air quality compliance.

On Wednesday, the AQMD will consider an order of abatement for Anaplex Corp. and Aerocraft Heat Treating during a public hearing.

Officials want to put a strict enforcement plan in place to make sure the companies are reducing emissions.

“While levels were 350 times typical background levels near these facilities, today they are probably ten or twenty times lower than that,” Atwood said.

Residents also want soil and water tested for the cancer causing compound.

AQMD said it has asked the California Air Resources Board to install air monitors at six more local schools.

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