OXNARD : Group Says It May Not OK Settlement

An environmental group that filed a complaint with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency against an Oxnard aluminum recycler says it may no longer accept a settlement because the firm appears to have misstated its use of toxic chemicals.

Halaco Engineering Co. has agreed to pay the EPA $3,500 for failing to report its usage of ammonia in 1992.

The Times incorrectly reported Thursday that the firm had agreed to pay the fine for failing to report its ammonia emissions for that year.

Attorney Richard Drury of Citizens for a Better Environment said Thursday, however, that when Halaco finally reported its 1992 usage of ammonia, it misstated the amount. Drury's group had filed the original complaint.

The firm reported that it used 11,700 pounds of ammonia to treat other chemicals. But according to a Halaco-commissioned study by an independent consultant, the firm emitted 13,800 pounds of ammonia into the air during that year.

The study, prepared in response to an earlier analysis that found even higher emissions, was filed with the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District.

Drury said Halaco's numbers are suspect. But he fears it may be too late to back out of the settlement, which is being handled through the EPA's administrative process and not in court.

"I don't know how many tests they want to run," Drury said. "The first test they did came back really dirty, so they commissioned another one, and that one came back dirty too. At a certain point, you have to hold people accountable."

Dave Gable, who manages the Halaco plant, said the study that found the plant had emitted 13,800 pounds of ammonia was fairly accurate. Nevertheless, he said there is only a minor discrepancy between that study and the report the firm filed with the EPA.

"I'm sure that when Mr. Drury looks into the EPA [rules] he will find we did nothing wrong," Gable said.

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