In Commerce, Lynwood : Toxic Burners May Get OK to Keep Operating

Times Staff Writer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state health officials are considering granting permits to allow two chemical manufacturers in Commerce and Lynwood to continue burning hazardous waste in small incinerators they have operated for years.

The Ashland Chemical Co., which manufactures resin for molded plastic products such as shower stalls and boat hulls, has been burning liquid and gaseous wastes since 1974 at a plant on the 6600 block of East 26th Street in Commerce, south of the Santa Ana Freeway and west of Garfield Avenue.

Cargill Inc. has burned waste gases and water since 1980 in an incinerator at its Lynwood plant on the 2800 block of Lynwood Road. Cargill manufactures resins that are used in plastic and paint products.

Both plants burn waste that they generate and do not accept outside waste, officials said.

Permits Required

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has regulated the plants for overall smog emissions. But the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 and subsequent amendments require the plants to secure permits from the EPA and the state Department of Health Services by Nov. 8 if they are to continue burning hazardous waste, officials said.

Plant officials said it is cheaper to burn the hazardous waste on site rather than have it trucked elsewhere for incineration. Ashland plant manager Reid Mork said it also avoids some risks.

"It's more economical and it's a lot safer because you don't have it traveling around on the roads," Mork said last week.

So far, there has been little public opposition to continued operation of the incinerators.

No one spoke in opposition to the permit for the Ashland incinerator during a public hearing last Thursday at the South Gate Auditorium. But an aide to Assemblywoman Lucille Roybal Allard (D-Los Angeles) submitted a written request that a "toxics audit" be made before the permit is issued. Such an audit would determine how much incinerator emissions contribute to the overall toxic emissions problem in the Los Angeles Basin.

In an interview, Commerce Councilman Ruben C. Batres said he was not aware of any objections by city officials to continued operation of the Ashland incinerator.

Only 2 Complaints

During a hearing last month, only two Lynwood residents opposed the permit for the Cargill incinerator. One complained of odors from the plant and the other said she feared that emissions from the incinerator could be harmful.

Lynwood officials do not oppose continued operation of the incinerator.

"It's been running since 1980," Lynwood Councilman Robert Henning said in an interview. "There have not been any problems in our city in reference to people being sick."

Both incinerators have undergone extensive emissions tests to see if they comply with EPA and state standards.

The companies hired private contractors to perform the tests, which are reviewed by the EPA and state Department of Health Services.

Cargill is in an industrial pocket on the east end of Lynwood, surrounded by residential areas. The incinerator, which burns one to two gallons of liquid waste per minute, is about four feet in diameter and 13 feet long.

The firm's waste contains resin and other compounds such as dioxane and formaldehyde, two suspected cancer-causing agents.

To obtain operating permits, the incinerator must meet emissions standards for hydrogen chloride, a gaseous acid, and particulates. It must also be able to destroy 99.99% of organic toxic compounds such as dioxane.

Cargill performed a test burn in October, 1988. The plant passed muster for hydrogen chloride and particulates but failed to destroy the hazardous compounds at the required 99.99% level, according to an EPA report.

Some modifications were made to the incinerator and another test burn has since been performed, officials said. Results indicate that the plant has met the 99.99% standard, but they are still under review, said Jim Marxen, spokesman for the state Department of Health Services.

A preliminary health risk study indicates that the Cargill incinerator would create little additional risk of cancer among area residents. The study forecast less than one new case of cancer per million people living near the plant for 70 years.

The Ashland Chemical Co. is surrounded by industry. The nearest residence is about half a mile away.

The Ashland incinerator burns resin, dioxane and formaldehyde. The incinerator is about the same size as the Cargill incinerator and burns two gallons of liquid waste per minute.

Inaccuracy Feared

A test burn at Ashland was conducted by private contractors in September, 1988. Results indicated that the incinerator met EPA standards for emissions of hydrogen chloride and particulates. But testing for organic hazardous compounds may have been inaccurate, and Ashland must test again.

A health risk study still under review by the EPA and state health officials indicates that emissions from the Ashland incinerator would cause less than one new case of cancer among a million people living near the plant for 70 years.

Ashland will probably be granted a conditional permit in November and be required to submit the additional test results in the spring, officials said.

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