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Riverside plant cements deal over chromium pollution

June 27, 2008 |  5:50 pm


TXI Riverside Cement Co. has signed a settlement deal with air quality regulators that will cost the company $1 million, but which allows it to avoid admitting whether toxic hexavalent chromium emissions blowing from the direction of its large, outdoor clinker dust piles actually came from those piles.

Hexavalent chromium is a potent carcinogen, and levels an average of ten times higher than normal were detected blowing over nearby homes and businesses in western Riverside County. South Coast Air Quality Mangement officials said their investigators determined that the source was the clinker piles, and charged the plant and its owners with many violations.

But a document signed by both sides last week reads, in part: "This Agreement (is) made for the purpose of compromising and settling these matters amicably, in the spirit of conciliation, and to avoid litigation. Nothing contained in this Agreement shall constitute or be construed, considered, offered, or admitted, in whole or in part, as evidence of, or an admission of evidence of, fault, wrongdoing, liability, or violative conduct by any Party."

The company has agreed not to pile on any more of the raw clinker dust, which is shipped in from the desert to make into concrete. They also agreed to use or clean up the existing clinker by Nov. 30. In the meantime, TXI agreed to cover the piles within 30 days.

In addition, the company agreed to pay the South Coast Air Quality Management District $400,000 in civil penalties, to spend another $400,000 on new equipment or upgrades at the plant, and to throw in an extra $200,000, in part to cover AQMD's expenses in connection with their five-month investigation.

There is no word on how the AQMD plans to spend the extra $400,000. The agency was criticized for taking so long to nail down the source of the hazardous emissions and for not notifying the public more promptly. AQMD executive officer Barry Wallerstein asked public health officials in mid-March to "please maintain the confidentiality of this information to the extent possible."

-- Janet Wilson

Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times