3 County Firms Ranked Worst Ozone Foes

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A high-powered environmental group has listed three Orange County companies among the nation's 60 worst ozone polluters.

Bentley Laboratories of Irvine, Greif Brothers Corp. of La Palma and Rockwell International Corp. of Anaheim were ranked high on a list of more than 3,000 companies that used three chemicals known to deplete the Earth's protective ozone layer, according to a report released Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report, based on chemical release data collected by the federal government under the federal "right to know" law, identified all U.S. industrial facilities that in 1987 reported discharging more than 2,000 pounds of any of three ozone-depleting substances: methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride and a type of chlorofluorocarbon known as CFC-113. Except in a few cases, the 1987 figures are the most current available.

"California was the No. 1 state for ozone-depleting companies, and Orange County was very high on the list," said Deborah Sheiman, co-author of the report, which was prepared by the council, based in Washington.

A total of 56 Orange County companies, which manufacture everything from steel drums to high-tech medical equipment, appeared on the list.

None of the firms are in violation of state or federal air pollution standards, and some of the companies have since stopped using the ozone-damaging chemicals or begun using more acceptable substitutes.

Members of resources council said they published the list to trigger public concern and prompt legislation to ban the use of the three chemicals that are destroying the ozone layer, which prevents damaging ultraviolet radiation from penetrating the atmosphere.

"We want to draw attention to these 3,000 companies so that all the cities and communities will go ask them to stop destroying the ozone layer," Sheiman said.

The report cited the Pratt & Whitney plant in East Hartford, Conn., as the nation's worst ozone-polluter in 1987 but noted that the discharge of methyl chloroform from the facility had decreased by 77% in 1988.

Ranked highest among Orange County firms was Bentley Laboratories, at No. 19.

The company uses a form of CFC-113 in manufacturing oxygenators, which are used during open-heart surgery, said Geoffrey Fenton, a spokesman for Bentley's parent company, Baxter Healthcare Corp. of Chicago.

But within one year, Fenton said, Bentley's emission of the chemical has dropped by 65%, from 250,000 pounds in 1987 to 89,000 pounds in 1989.

The reduction, he noted, resulted from improvements in storing and recycling CFC-113 and a shift toward a more environmentally sound production system at its Irvine plant. Bentley Labs has spent about $200,000 to reduce hazardous emissions and by 1996 hopes to reduce 1988 emission levels by 80%, Fenton said.

As of July 1, Irvine will enact a sweeping ozone law severely restricting the use of CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals. The law will prohibit the sale and manufacture of any ozone-harming substances, but company officials may file for exemptions if they believe their businesses would be jeopardized by the ordinance.

The environmental group ranked the Greif Brothers Corp. No. 44, but plant manager Robert St. Onge denied that the company, which produces steel drums, uses ozone-depleting chemicals.

"We're using nothing like that as far as I know," St. Onge said. "They can come here and check our invoices and raw materials. . . . They won't find anything."

Greif Brothers does use the chemical tricloroethane-111 to degrease steel drum parts, St. Onge said. Sheiman said that chemical is a synonym for methyl chloroform, one of the chemicals tracked in the study.

St. Onge said his company's use of the chemical is well within federal regulations.

Rockwell International of Anaheim, which was ranked No. 59, reported CFC-113 emissions of 210,000 pounds in 1987. But that figure dropped to 70,000 pounds in 1988, company spokesman Tony Longo said.

Longo attributed the reduction to more accurate emissions reporting. Rockwell uses the chemical to clean machines that build navigational systems for military vehicles.

Neither Rockwell nor Greif plans to reduce the use of the ozone-damaging chemicals, saying there are no adequate substitutes.

The resources council warned that if steps aren't taken soon to protect the ozone layer, millions more cases of skin cancer and cataracts as well as millions of dollars in crop damage could result from the increase in ultraviolet radiation.

In addition, the report urged the federal Environmental Protection Agency to require companies to report emissions of seven other ozone-depleting substances.

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