When Jerry Chodera decided to upgrade one of his company's pollution-control devices, he was resigned to waiting months for the necessary permits.
But thanks to the intervention of the newly formed Merit Partnership for Pollution Control, Chodera received the three permits he needed in a matter of weeks.
"In all honesty, I was amazed," said Chodera, vice president of Wescal Industries in Rancho Dominguez, which manufactures parts for electric lights industry.
Chodera is one of the first beneficiaries of the Merit Partnership, a public-private partnership of industry leaders and government regulators that helps businesses in southwest Los Angeles County operate more efficiently while reducing toxic waste.
Details of the partnership were announced Monday to help launch California's Pollution Prevention Week, a state government effort to recognize pollution-control projects.
One of the partnership's purposes is to put small companies like Wescal on the fast track to receive permits for projects that fight pollution. The partnership also serves as a clearinghouse for companies seeking information and technical assistance on cost-effective ways to reduce pollution.
It also hopes to provide loans to small businesses that are interested in becoming more environmentally friendly but can't afford it.
"The goal is to promote cost-effective pollution prevention methods in southwest Los Angeles County," said Bill Glenn, spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which coordinated the partnership.
Southwest Los Angeles has a high concentration of industries that produce toxic waste, including oil refineries, chemical companies and aerospace manufacturers. Eventually, the partnership's members hope to expand their reach to businesses nationwide.
Participating agencies include the EPA's Department of Toxic Substance Control in California, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Regional Quality Control Board. Among the industry partners are Northrop Corp., Xerox Corp., Dow North America, and the Metal Finishers Assn. of Southern California.
A community advisory panel includes the American Lung Assn. of California, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the South Coast Assn. of Governments.
To target the oil industry, the partnership is planning to organize a meeting of major oil refiners, regulating agencies and pollution control experts to discuss ways to reduce toxic waste emissions.
The partnership is also organizing a round table of chemical, petroleum and transportation companies to come up with ways to strengthen industry standards for the safe transportation of chemicals.
And Northrop Corp., one of the partnership's major participants, will share information with smaller businesses on ways to improve manufacturing processes to reduce the production of pollutants.
"We believe the Merit Partnership will be a model of how government and industry can work together to achieve common goals," said John Wise, the EPA's regional administrator.
"It represents the merit, both environmental and economic, of preventing pollution before it happens."