It was a year ago this week that city officials ordered the Electron Plating III company to shut its doors because of health and safety hazards.
Daily use of acidic chemicals at the commercial and aerospace metal finishing company caused the corrosion of electrical systems and chemical holding areas. That led to the closure after a neighbor reported a leakage onto his property.
And it was one month ago today that owner J. Luis Padilla Jr. reopened his doors. After 11 months of inspections and rebuilding, $300,000 in repairs and $1.6 million in lost sales, Padilla said he is lucky to still be in business.
Padilla said it was a hard year and that he had to lay off all 36 of his employees, but that he was determined to stay in business. "We own the building and only have four years left on the mortgage," Padilla said. "We overcame. We're back in business."
About a dozen of Padilla's employees are back to work at the plant on Enterprise Avenue, many after long bouts of unemployment. The rest went on to other permanent jobs.
"We were very, very lucky to find owners that saw the necessity to get it safe and reopened again," said Jim Martin, building service manager for the city of Garden Grove. "In most cases, situations like this tend to shut businesses down."
Martin said he didn't expect the closure to last as long as it did.
"But the primary concern was for the safety of the people in the building," he said. "So we pulled them out until we determined the nature and extent of the chemical spills."
After the state's Department of Toxic Substance Control determined that the soil contamination was local and containable, county health officials and city building and Fire Department officials worked with Padilla to bring the building up to code.
Permits were issued in November to begin repairs, including new wiring and electrical conduits, improved containment areas for the chemicals, new concrete floors and new pipes for waste transportation.
"I feel bad that this happened to us, but I feel good about all the help we received," Padilla said.
Chris Ceballos can be reached at (714) 966-7440.