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Lynwood Residents Pressure City to Close Chemical Plant

November 19, 1989|LEE HARRIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LYNWOOD — A group of residents is pressuring city officials to shut down a chemical manufacturing plant and its incinerator on the city's eastern side.

The residents are concerned about odors from the Cargill Inc. plant and that the incinerator may be releasing harmful materials, said Ella Woods, an organizer of Lynwood Families Against Toxic Waste.

"Those odors are horrible. We can't even have a barbecue outside," said Woods, who lives about a quarter of a mile from the plant. "We (also) feel this stuff is hazardous."

The City Council plans to discuss the issue at its meeting Tuesday. Councilman Robert Henning said the council "should take a stand and let the citizens know we support them." He acknowledged, however, that the city may not have the authority to close the plant.

There are no provisions in city ordinances regulating hazardous waste plants, said Vicente Maas, the city's director of community development.

The city staff is considering asking the council Tuesday to declare a moratorium on building hazardous waste plants in the city, Maas said. But the Cargill plant would not be affected, he added.

The residents' organization earlier collected 501 signatures on petitions opposing a state operating permit for the incinerator. But the state Department of Health Services on Nov. 7 issued a hazardous waste permit.

Health officials asked Cargill to submit a plan by Dec. 8 for controlling the odors from the plant, said Rich Varenchik, Health Services public information officer. Department officials believe the odors are caused by the materials used in the chemical process to create resins, which are used in plastic and paint products.

City Councilman Paul Richards said he believes "the next step (for the council) is to convince the Department of Health Services to reconsider its decision to issue the permit."

Doug Graff, the general manager of Cargill, said: "Over the years the plant has done various things to drastically cut emissions. We have been very responsible. We have been proactive in reducing emissions."

The Environmental Protection Agency last month denied the company a permit to operate the incinerator because it failed to meet federal emissions standards during a test in October, 1988. But the incinerator passed a more recent test, and may receive a permit as soon as the results are analyzed, said Andy Steckel, EPA environmental engineer. The company is allowed to continue operating the incinerator while it appeals.

Steckel said EPA officials do not believe the plant incinerator "is dangerous to human health."

He said a health-risk study by the state Health Services Department concluded that the incinerator would cause less than one new case of cancer per million people living near the plant for 70 years.

"We sympathize with the people because of the odor but we do not feel that the incinerator is a health risk," Steckel said.

The plant at 2800 Lynwood Road is in an industrial pocket surrounded by residential areas that include six schools and a church. The plant employs 83 workers.

During a Health Services hearing in June, only two residents spoke out against the state permit. Lynwood officials did not oppose it.

Councilman Henning said during an interview at that time he saw no reason to oppose the plant. Henning said he visited the plant and talked with the company management, and that he believed the plant to be safe.

NEXT STEP The Lynwood City Council, at its meeting Tuesday, is scheduled to discuss possible action against a Cargill Inc. chemical manufacturing plant and incinerator on the city's eastern side.

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