GM, 6 Other Area Firms Make Worst-Polluters List

Times Staff Writer

Seven San Fernando Valley-area businesses ranked among the worst air polluters in the Los Angeles Basin in a survey of 1986 emissions, the South Coast Air Quality Management District has announced.

The survey, completed late last year, lists the top 20 polluters in five different categories. The area companies making the various lists were the General Motors plant in Van Nuys, Universal Studios in Universal City, Lockheed-California in Burbank, Continental Can in Van Nuys, Catalina Yachts in Woodland Hills, CalMat in Sun Valley and Sun Production in Newhall.

Being named does not necessarily mean that a business has violated AQMD pollution standards during the year, said AQMD spokesman Tom Eichhorn.

The rankings were released in hopes of pressuring the businesses to reduce their pollution and improve air quality in Los Angeles, overall the most polluted city in America, he said.

"We have assembled those lists in the past and distributed them internally, but, because we're having a stepped-up effort to take on smog, we felt it would be appropriate for the public to understand who the big polluters are," Eichhorn said.

30,000 Pollution Sources

The worst air polluters were selected in a survey of more than 30,000 pollution sources in the South Coast Air Basin, which covers Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The sites range from oil refineries to dry cleaners. The information gathered is used by the AQMD to levy emission fees.

"We are determined to meet state and federal standards for clean and healthy air, and these emissions must go down," AQMD board member Larry Berg said in a press release. "Anyone who breathes ought to be outraged. Businesses that pollute are profiting at the expense of our lungs."

The worst Southland polluter of reactive hydrocarbons, or unburnt petroleum fumes, was the Van Nuys General Motors plant, according to the listing. The plant released 1,694 tons of hydrocarbons into the air for the year, just beating out Chevron USA, a refinery in El Segundo, which emitted 1,669 tons, the AQMD said.

The big source of pollution at the plant, which makes Pontiac Firebirds and Chevrolet Camaros, is the oil-based paints and solvents that are used, Eichhorn said. The AQMD repeatedly cited the plant in 1985 and 1986 for its pollution emissions. As a result, General Motors paid more than $57,000 in fines and penalties for violating air-quality rules.

Reactive hydrocarbons combine with nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere to form ozone, which is the basin's most serious air-pollution health threat. Ozone can cause shortness of breath in children and the elderly, and there is some evidence that it causes long-term damage to lung capacity, Eichhorn said.

Other Polluters

General Motors executives could not be reached for comment.

Other major hydrocarbon polluters in the Valley included Continental Can, ranked No. 6 with 928 tons; Catalina Yachts, ranked No. 8 with 616 tons, and Lockheed, ranked No. 18 with 323 tons.

On the list of the top carbon-monoxide polluters, Universal Studios ranked No. 2. Eichhorn said the tourist trams at Universal's amusement park are to blame for the high ranking. Gas-burning vehicles at the park emitted 1,384 tons of carbon monoxide, he said. Disneyland was No. 6, with 601 tons of carbon monoxide. The culprits there are the miniature cars at the Autopia attraction, Eichhorn said.

AQMD officials, however, said both Universal and Disneyland could easily clean up their acts. Disney could replace its dirty motors and Universal could use more efficient motors or, better yet, switch to vehicles that use electricity or methanol, Eichhorn said.

A Universal executive did not return phone calls. A spokesman from Disneyland said the AQMD told the amusement park that the ranking was inaccurate.

Ranked the top polluter in the carbon monoxide category was the Chevron refinery, which emitted 3,065 tons.

On the list of polluters of particulate matter, CalMat's Conrock sand and gravel quarry in Sun Valley was tied as the 12th worst polluter by emitting 98 tons. The Manville Sales Corp. in Corona had the same reading.

John Bennett, CalMat's director of environmental matters, said company officials were unaware of the ranking and did not plan to change any practices. He said that creating some dust is a part of the quarry business and that the company is meeting air-quality standards.

Chevron was again at the top in that category, with 629 tons of particulate matter for the year.

Lastly, Sun Production ranked No. 13 in the nitrogen oxides category by emitting 1,286 tons at its oil field. Nitrogen oxides, a product of combustion, contribute to the creation of acid rain.

The top nitrogen oxide polluter was Chevron, with 5,418 tons.

The fifth category, in which no Valley-area firms were mentioned, was emissions of sulfur dioxide, led by the Arco refinery in Carson with 4,005 tons a year.

In releasing the lists, the AQMD noted that the largest collective polluters in the area are motorists, who drive 8 million vehicles.

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