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Torrance Foundry Closes for Emissions Study

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Notified that its air emissions continue to carry excessive amounts of lead, a Torrance foundry has ceased operations for the second time this month.

Martin Brass Foundry closed down voluntarily on Monday after the South Coast Air Quality Management District determined in tests last week that lead concentrations near the plant were two times higher than the federal standard for ambient air.

The foundry, just north of Charles Wilson Community Park, first shut down for repairs on Aug. 14, after an earlier AQMD test had shown airborne lead concentrations at 20 times the federal standard.

Charles Ivie, an attorney representing the foundry, said the company will remain closed at least until next week so its engineers, acting in cooperation with the AQMD, can study the plant’s pollution control system to see if more repairs are necessary.

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Ivie said the foundry does not believe it should be held to the federal standard for airborne lead, however. He said the standard is meant as a gauge for overall air quality, not for emissions from a specific plant.

The issue will likely be addressed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday, when a judge is scheduled to consider finalizing or modifying an Aug. 16 court order requiring that the foundry keep its lead emissions within the federal limit.

AQMD spokesman Bill Kelly said Wednesday he could not comment on what position his agency will take in court. On Aug. 16, the agency unsuccessfully sought a tougher injunction that would have kept the foundry closed until the AQMD determined it was safe to reopen.

“We prefer not to comment because it’s under litigation,” Kelly said. “It’s a dynamic situation.”

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For his part, Ivie indicated he will argue against the current order. He questions the urgency with which AQMD is pursuing the case.

“This facility has been open for 27 years. Why did it suddenly become a nuisance last week?” Ivie said. “The operation has been unchanged for a long time.”

Officials from the AQMD, the Los Angeles County Health Department and Cal/OSHA have said they are closely monitoring conditions in and around the plant because excessive airborne lead could pose risks to foundry workers and people nearby.

Breathing large amounts of lead can cause brain damage, particularly in children, and has been linked to high blood pressure in adults. Although the Martin Brass facility is in a largely industrial area, a church day-care center and school facilities are nearby.

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County health official Paul Papanek said Wednesday that his agency took soil samples at the day-care center and other sites earlier this week to see if they have been subjected to significant amounts of lead. The results of those tests are not yet available, he said.


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