While acknowledging that Kaiser International has from time to time violated air quality standards, Holdaway said the violations have been isolated and relatively infrequent considering how much attention the facility gets from the agency, the Harbor Department and area boaters.
Aside from the black gunk, some boat owners have complained about truck traffic and the dirt it creates along Miner Street, and about noisy trains that sometimes block Miner Street and access to the marinas in Watchorn Basin. On busy days, about 40 trucks an hour carrying petroleum coke file into the facility, and boat owners at the north end of Watchorn Basin near the entrance to the facility say it is the trucks that are dirtying their boats by spilling dry coke and stirring up dust on the road.
"It seems the only time we get dirty is when the coke ships are working," said Harold Struthers, who has a boat near the facility's entrance and is president of Los Angeles Boat Owners, a group of about 400 members. "The trucks really cause a nuisance."
Ketcham, of the air quality management district, said one study by the agency showed that emissions from the bulk loader were higher upwind than downwind from the facility. "We decided it was probably because of the trucks kicking up the dust on the road," he said.
Ketcham said the temporary permit for increased coke storage that Kaiser is expected to receive this month includes a provision that the company provide better "truck washing" services--hosing down the coke coming in on the trucks--to reduce the amount of dust on Miner Street.
In a separate action, Kaiser indirectly won a battle last month against some harbor-area residents who took the city to court for allowing the bulk loader facility to operate at all. The Coastal and Harbor Hazards Council, a small watchdog group from San Pedro, challenged a 1965 ruling by the city's chief zoning administrator that permitted the Harbor Department to build the facility in an M2 zone, which is reserved for light industrial uses.
The group had taken the department to court after the city's Board of Zoning Appeals upheld the current zoning administrator's decision to support the 1965 ruling. The court ruled in favor of the city and the Harbor Department.
While council members and boat owners said they were disappointed by the court's decision, they said they have not given up.
Last week, boat owners all along Watchorn Basin gathered more than 75 signatures on petitions alleging that the Kaiser International facility is a public nuisance and stating that boat owners have experienced "a graphic increase in inconveniences and health hazards" because of the company's operation.
Meanwhile, Camilla Burgher, who runs San Pedro Yacht Sales in Watchorn Basin, was collecting Air Quality Management District complaint forms from boat owners that she hopes can be used to build a case against Kaiser.
"It is the main topic of conversation around here," said Tolby, the boat owner from Arcadia. "About two dozen people around here have left and gone over to the new marina to get away from it. It has gotten so bad, I would consider it, too."