Class Says L.A. Factories Spew Chromium 6

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Residents of a Los Angeles suburb filed a class action against seven metal finishing factories, claiming they polluted the City of Paramount with carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, a chemical made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich.”

Allison Weiner and six others sued Aerocraft Heat Treating Co., Anaplex Corp., Precision Castparts et al. on Tuesday in Superior Court. They say the factories polluted the city of 55,000, directly east of Compton, in “conscious disregard for the lives of the surrounding residents.”

Regulators found last fall that Anaplex and Aerocraft had discharged elevated levels of chromium 6 into the neighborhood. Prolonged exposure to chromium 6 increases the risk of lung cancer and asthma.

“Defendants allowed toxic chemicals to migrate into the surrounding communities and contaminate the surrounding surface and subsurface soil, groundwater and air. This contamination has migrated into the surrounding neighborhoods where they have been and continue to be inhaled, ingested, or otherwise contacted by plaintiffs and the putative class who live and work in the City of Paramount, California,” the complaint states.

In January, the South Coast Air Quality Management District ordered Anaplex to temporarily suspend operations and issued a similar order to Aerocraft in February. The air regulator has cited defendant Carlton Forge Works seven times for discharging chromium pollution into the atmosphere, according to the complaint.

Anaplex installed 28 pieces of equipment that emit the potent pollutant without approval from regulators, the residents say. They say the pollution comes from unmonitored Anaplex tanks containing chrome plating solution and chrome based paints, and that chromium-laced dust has drifted from an Aerocraft factory in the neighborhood.

Air regulators began monitoring in 2013 after residents complained of pungent metallic odors. In October 2016, investigators found chromium 6 levels more than 350 times higher than typical background levels, the Los Angeles Times reported in January.

Dozens of metal industry businesses operate in the city, intermingling with schools and homes. Some homes are within a few hundred feet of the factories.

The residents are represented by Robert Finnerty with the environmental law firm Girardi Keese. The firm represented Hinkley, California residents in the chromium contamination case made famous by “Erin Brockovich,” starring Julia Roberts.

The residents seek class certification and an injunction ordering the companies to clean up the pollution in soil, bedrock and from the exteriors of their homes, costs of medical monitoring, and compensatory, statutory and punitive damages for fraudulent concealment, trespass, strict liability for ultra-hazardous activities, negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, public and private nuisance and unfair competition.

Also named defendants are Precision Castparts subsidiaries Aerocraft Beat Treating Co., Press Forge Co. and Carlton Forge Works, Weber Metals. and Mattco Forge.

In January, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathway acquired Precision Castparts in a deal valued at $37.2 billion.

Anaplex President Carmen Campbell said the company was addressing residents’ concerns.

“This changes nothing in our determination to continue to work closely with regulators and provide local jobs and services that meet environmental standards with the best interests of the community in mind,” Campbell wrote in an emailed statement.

Precision Castparts and Aerocraft did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Nor did Girardi Keese attorney Finnerty.