Air Study Puts UCLA Among Top Polluters in Los Angeles Basin

Times Staff Writer

Boilers that heated the campus placed UCLA on a list of the 20 biggest polluters in the Los Angeles Basin, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The Westwood campus ranked 10th in carbon monoxide emissions (470 tons per year) and 18th in sulfur dioxide pollution (146 tons per year), according to the list released last month. The report cited emission statistics for 1986, but they were not made public until now because the AQMD needed time to verify the figures.

The list ranks the basin's top 20 industrial and commercial producers of five pollutants: carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, reactive hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

In UCLA's case, the pollution was traced to six boilers that generate heat and air conditioning for campus buildings, AQMD spokesman Ron Ketcham said.

Other Pollutants

UCLA was not included among the top 20 producers of reactive hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides or particulate matter.

Being on the list does not mean a company is violating any laws or clean-air regulations, Ketcham said. It simply lists the top 20 polluters out of the more than 30,000 sources in the basin, he said.

Ketcham said colleges and hospitals are frequently cited as big polluters among non-industrial facilities. Cal State Northridge and Cal State Long Beach, he said, are heavy polluters but did not make the top 20.

"We are determined to meet state and federal standards for clean and healthy air and these emissions (from all 20 polluters on the list) must go down," said AQMD board member Larry Berg. "Anyone who breathes ought to be outraged."

Called Misleading

Allen Solomon, UCLA assistant vice chancellor for facilities management, said UCLA's ranking is misleading because the boilers produce heat and air conditioning for more than 100 buildings on the 411-acre campus. Taken individually, he said, the buildings generate no more pollution than any other building the same size in the city.

"If you divide it (the amount of pollution produced by UCLA) by 100, we may not be so bad," he said. "We may in fact be doing a lot better than most other places and it's just a statistical accounting thing that makes us look bad. I'm not sure we are a major source of the problem."

Solomon said he has not received the report and has not read it.

Most of the big polluters are refineries, heavy industries and chemical manufacturers. The top three producers of sulfur dioxide, for example, include the Arco refinery in Carson, Mobil Oil in Torrance and Chevron USA in El Segundo.

UCLA is the only university or college on the list and the only facility on the Westside that was included.

Although thousands of people commute to UCLA every weekday, smog produced by vehicles was not included in the AQMD report, Ketcham said. The carbon monoxide cited in the study was generated entirely by the boilers and several internal combustion engines on the campus.

Penny Menton, who runs the ride-sharing program at UCLA, said the university is helping reduce vehicle emissions by operating 43 van pools and building more parking spaces for bicycles and motor scooters. She said 2,100 people participate in a campus car-pool program.

"There are certainly measures being taken . . . to get vehicles off the road," Menton said.

According to Max Heinzelmann, UCLA director of facilities management-technical services, the campus has actually been helping fight smog by using large quantities of cleaner burning methane as fuel. The methane is extracted from decomposing garbage at the closed Mountaingate Landfill near Sepulveda Boulevard and Mulholland Drive.

Heinzelmann said between one third and one half of UCLA's fuel consumption consists of landfill gas. The rest is natural gas and oil.

UCLA's total fuel bill for last year was slightly less than $4 million, Solomon said.

"If we didn't use that landfill gas, it would simply go into the neighborhood. There's really no market for it and we are the only game in town (that buys it)," Heinzelmann said. "We're actually doing our share in this department to reduce the amount of pollution" in the neighborhood around the landfill.

"We have been very innovative and very pro-active in both meeting our economy of fuel needs and at the same time keeping the city's interests in mind in cleaning the environment," Solomon said.

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