State water regulators Monday released a list of 142 San Fernando Valley sites where they have asked property owners to help determine whether chromium 6 may have been discharged in ways that contributed to soil and ground water contamination.
The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board sent letters to the Valley businesses on Nov. 8 to help pinpoint the source of pollution by chromium 6, a suspected carcinogen featured in the film "Erin Brockovich." The letters asked the owners to complete a five-page survey by Dec. 1 on the use and disposal of chromium 6 at their businesses.
The list of sites ranges from defense suppliers to etching and chrome-plating firms and jewelry manufacturers.
Just because a property is on the list does not mean that it is contaminated with chromium 6, officials said. Instead, regulators have targeted sites where chromium is being used, or has been used in the past, as they seek to find those responsible for the pollution.
Burbank had the most sites with 64, followed by 27 in Glendale, 20 in North Hollywood and 15 in Sun Valley. The list included companies in other communities as well, including eight in the industrial corridor of Los Angeles bordering the Golden State Freeway near Griffith Park.
Another 80 to 100 sites are expected to receive surveys at a later date, board officials said.
The letters are the first step toward cleaning up the industrial sites, said Dennis Dickerson, the board's executive director, who released a list of the companies at a daylong workshop on chromium 6 in Glendale.
"We are not going to shy away from any enforcement, if needed," Dickerson told the seven-member regional water board at Monday's meeting. "It is something that we truly need to do."
Early next year, the board staff will review the completed questionnaires and determine on which sites the owners will have to test their soil and ground water for high levels of chromium 6, Dickerson said.
Companies with high levels could be ordered to remove or treat tainted soil and water. But officials said it was not yet clear at what level remediation would be required.
The list of potential polluters was drawn from among 4,000 Valley-area companies compiled more than two decades ago by state and federal regulators investigating other kinds of industrial pollution in the Valley.
The list released Monday does not include about half a dozen major properties in the area, including Lockheed Martin Corp.'s former defense factory in Burbank, where chromium 6 contamination is being cleaned up.
Norman Wischoff, owner of Pacer Performance Products Inc. in Los Angeles near the zoo, questioned the effectiveness of the survey.
"To try to do this completely and accurately would take a lot of time," said Wishoff, whose company distributes auto accessories. "If they really wanted to find out [who is polluting], they would come run their own tests at their time and their expense."
The properties targeted by the board have in at least some cases been converted to other uses. A former General Electric Co. property in North Hollywood, for example, was on the board's list. But it is now being leased by the Los Angeles Times for use as a newspaper distribution center.
"From what I understand, there are no chemicals being used in any production or processes," said Los Angeles Times spokesman David Garcia. "It's merely a transfer site for newspaper deliveries."
Board officials said the questionnaires were designed to help regulators find out who may be responsible for chromium 6 contamination.
A spokesman for the National Resources Defense Council said the board should have taken steps to identify the sources of chromium 6 contamination long ago.
"Until we identify those sources and curtail them, these levels will continue to grow," said Alex Helperin, a defense council project manager. The level of ground-water contamination "should have never gotten this far in the first place."