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Plating Firm Charged With Toxic Dumping

April 13, 1986|PAT BRENNAN | Times Staff Writer

GLENDORA — A metal plating firm already under fire from parents who fear that its emissions might endanger children at an adjacent elementary school has been charged by the county district attorney's office with dumping excessive amounts of toxic material into county sewers.

The 20 misdemeanor counts filed in Citrus Municipal Court in West Covina last week accuse the firm, Plato Products, and four of its top officers of violating a number of county and federal waste water laws. Deputy Dist. Atty. Diana Bell said the charges resulted from a six-month investigation by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the county Department of Health Services.

Four to Be Arraigned

Bell said that higher levels of chromium, copper, zinc, nickel, lead and cadmium than permitted under county regulations and federal law had been discharged into the sewer system. She said the sewers ultimately lead to the ocean, and that the toxic waste has the potential of poisoning marine life and humans.

Four Plato officials--company President George Kent, Vice President William Eldred, production manager Arch Chieves and plating supervisor Steve Curtis--are scheduled to be arraigned in Citrus Court on April 22. They could receive maximum terms of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each count on which they are convicted. A company spokesman declined to comment on the charges.

A San Dimas citizen's group last week said the action was a major victory in its battle to close the plant because of the alleged danger to children at Arma J. Shull School, which is just across the Glendora boundary in San Dimas. However, the charges as filed do not include air-quality violations.

For more than a year, the group, called the Concerned Citizens Committee, has fought to close the plant, which moved from El Monte to a one-acre site at 2120 Allen Ave. in August, 1984.

Led by San Dimas resident Jeff Schenkel and made up primarily of parents whose children attend Shull School, the group has been protesting the plant's presence since March, 1984, when parents began questioning whether Plato might be producing toxic emissions in its chrome-plating operations. The group said then that it was particularly concerned about hexavalent chromium, which is emitted from cyanide tanks in the chrome-plating process.

At first, the group claimed that fumes from the plant were making school children sick. But tests by the Air Quality Management District and the county Department of Health Services found no evidence that toxic fumes were being released into the air by the plant.

But the group persisted, and last November Bell began an investigation of the firm at the request of San Dimas city officials.

Meanwhile, the Concerned Citizens Committee persuaded the air quality district to require firms to obtain special permits for the use of cyanide tanks.

Schenkel said he and about 40 members of his group still believe the plant represents a threat to Shull students, and will continue to push for the plant's closure.

"Even the smallest levels of toxic substances are harmful," Schenkel said in reference to the plant's emissions, "particularly over a period of time. The children's education process takes five, six, seven years at this school, six hours a day, in a very formative period of their lives."

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