2 Valley Firms Paid Largest Penalties to Air District in March

Times Staff Writer

Air pollution penalties collected from two San Fernando Valley companies were the largest paid in the South Coast air basin in March, the last month for which enforcement statistics have been compiled by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Air district officials said Sierracin Corp. of Sylmar, a manufacturer of aircraft windshields, agreed to pay $24,000 in connection with violation notices last fall that accused the firm of using coatings containing too much solvent.

The air district also collected $12,000 in a settlement with Conrock Co., which was accused last August of exceeding tonnage limits in removal of gravel from two Sun Valley pits.

Gas Stations Cited


Altogether, the air district collected $121,630 in March from about 200 companies in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to the district’s monthly statistical summary of enforcement. Many cases involved failure by gas station operators to properly maintain equipment to capture vapors from gasoline pumps.

More than a third of the total--$44,950--was paid by one government agency and 27 companies in the Valley, Glendale and Westlake Village, the monthly report shows.

The government agency was the Burbank Public Service Department, which paid $700 for its failure to curtail use of fuel oil to generate electricity on two days in 1984 when Stage 1 smog episodes were predicted.

Ozone Levels


During Stage 1 episodes, levels of ozone, a lung irritant, far exceed federal standards, and residents are advised to reduce outdoor physical activity. On days when Stage 1 ozone levels are predicted, electric utilities are required to switch from fuel oil to cleaner-burning natural gas.

Thomas McCauley, general manager of the public service department, said the complaint arose from “a misinterpretation” rather than “an intentional violation of the rules.” McCauley said the pollution episodes were forecast not for Burbank but for other parts of the air basin. He said Burbank power plant operators did not realize they had to curtail fuel-oil use in such cases.

Ben Shaw, enforcement manager for the air district, said the Sierracin complaint involved the firm’s use of two types of coatings that contained much higher concentrations of volatile solvents than allowed by district rules. Solvent evaporation contributes to formation of ozone.

Coatings Reduced


But Shaw said Sierracin has complied by reducing its use of the coatings to less than 20 pounds per day, which makes it exempt from the rules.

In the Conrock case, Shaw said, the violation was mainly “procedural,” because the permit limits that the firm exceeded were unnecessarily strict.

Shaw said that the Conrock permits allowed the firm to extract up to 5,600 tons per day of gravel from each of two pits and that company records showed that these amounts were exceeded more than 200 times in 1983 and 1984.

Shaw said it was later determined that the 5,600-ton limit was based on a miscalculation of the limit needed to hold particulate pollution to approved levels. The permit limit has since been raised, Shaw said. The violation, he said, resulted from exceeding the earlier permit limits and Conrock’s failure to apply for a change in those limits.