Defense contractor Ford Aerospace has agreed to pay $250,000 to settle charges that it violated air pollution control regulations at its plants in Newport Beach and Irvine during 1987 and 1988.
Ford Aerospace agreed to pay the fine but admitted no wrongdoing after a year of negotiations with the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The penalty is the second largest imposed this year by the regional pollution-control agency.
"Ford Aerospace is a large corporation, and certainly we felt they had a responsibility to comply with the rules," said William Wong, senior deputy prosecutor for the AQMD. "The violations lasted over two years, and they involved poor record-keeping and a fairly large amount of excess emissions."
Ford Aerospace spokeswoman Susan Pearce declined to discuss the fine. "The company continues to do its best to ensure compliance with the very stringent air-quality standards in this area," she said.
The Ford plants released more than 100 pounds of excess pollutants into the atmosphere each day, said David Rutherford, an AQMD spokesman. He said the hydrocarbon pollutants were released in industrial paint used on military aircraft components and other equipment.
Ford Aerospace, a subsidiary of Ford Motor Co., is required under a 1987 permit to use no more than three gallons of paint a day. "We believe they were using as much as 21 gallons a day, which is 100 pounds of hydrocarbons," Rutherford said.
During an AQMD audit of Ford's plants, the aerospace company said it was unable to locate required monthly air pollution reports for nine months in 1988 and at least one month in 1987, Rutherford said.
Ford is now in compliance with the pollution standards, Rutherford said. The agency has no record of previous violations at Ford's Orange County plants, he said.
Ford agreed to settle the case rather than face the prospect of a civil lawsuit against the company, Rutherford said. The AQMD, which regulates industry in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, has the authority to fine companies up to $25,000 a day per violation.
The biggest fine that the AQMD has imposed this year was a $350,000 penalty against Gary Lazar, owner of a chain of 160 gas stations, for failing to repair leaky gas hoses.