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Pacific Steel Foundry
Settles with Bay Area Air Quality Management District

Berkeley Neighborhood Complaints About Bad Air Unresolved 

FRED DODSWORTH / East Bay Daily News 29dec2005

[Letter to BAAQMD from West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs 30dec2005]


Members of the West Berkeley neighborhood that have been fighting Pacific Steel Casting Company, in some cases for decades, were surprised when the Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced an unexpected settlement with the company which it posted Dec. 22, three days before Christmas.

Mindfully.org note:

In spite of the settlement, we strongly advise complaining about the air pollution if you live anywhere near Pacific Steel in the Bay Area. Do so by simply calling the 24 hour toll-free complaint hotline: 1-800-334-ODOR(6367)  You may make your complaint anonymously (without giving your name) or otherwise. For more info, please go to the website of the Bay Area Air Quality Management (BAAQM).

If the BAAQM had actually intended on protecting citizens it would have done so years ago. This settlement is a diversion meant to take Pacific Steel out of the lime light. The community should remain on guard and report all incidents of noxious odors from Pacific Steel. The BAAQM has sold out for an amount that doesn't even amount to chump change for Pacific Steel, while at the same time, it hasn't solve the problems.

In exchange for a fine of $17,500 and the foundry's agreement to "install state-of-the-art abatement equipment specially designed for it," according to a statement distributed to the press and attributed to Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the district let the foundry off the hook for numerous odor complaints and air quality violations.

No one from the company was available for comment, as it has been closed since Dec. 23. Similarly no one from the company's public relations company, Aroner Jewel Ellis, was available for comment.

The settlement specifically forgives Pacific Steel Casting for not reporting that the company had exceeded emission limits of precursor organic compounds and acknowledges the company "cannot remain within ... current precursor organic compounds limits and continue its normal level of operations," according to the settlement agreement.

The company exceeded its emission limits in 2004 and expects to exceed those limits again in 2005 the settlement acknowledged. The company has submitted an application to the Air Quality District requesting an increase in its emissions limits, which is stipulated on the first page of the negotiated settlement.

The company "seeks to enter into an agreement to ... address a potential future violation until the time that Pacific Steel obtains increased precursor organic compounds emissions limits."

The neighbors plan to fight any attempt to increase the pollutants released by the foundry.

"I don't think it's a given," said Toni Stein, a member of the West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs. "It shouldn't have even been mentioned in this agreement. This is not good for the community."

The Air Quality District logged 330 odor complaints against the foundry between January 1998 and March 2005. Starting in 1985 and ending in 2000, the company had an "unconditional order of abatement," requiring it address noxious odors. In 1999, Stein, who holds an engineering doctorate in air quality control, was the only one of five Bay Area Air Quality Management District hearing officers unwilling to lift the abatement order.

While Stein approves of Pacific Steel's intended improvements, including a carbon absorption abatement system for the facility known as "Building 3" by October 15, 2006, she believes the district and the foundry deliberately avoided addressing the plant's problems systemically.

"It's a step in the right direction, but it's not sufficient," said Stein. "There are something like 100 sources of emissions on that campus. "They're not addressing all the issues. They have three different permits, one for each building. Everyone else in California has only one permit to cover all operations. Pacific Steel's issues should all be addressed on one permit that mitigates everything."

Steel Mill to Install $2 Million Filter 

JASON B JOHNSON / San Francisco Chronicle 29dec2005


A Berkeley steel factory will install a new emission control system and pay about $17,500 in fines under a settlement with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the agency said.

Pacific Steel Casting will install a carbon filtration system, at an estimated cost of $2 million, to reduce odor emissions and also pay fines stemming from multiple violations the district issued this year, according to the settlement agreement.

Pacific Steel officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Frequent complaints in recent years about the factory prompted its neighbors to form the West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs.

Alliance member Janice Schroeder, who lives about a mile from Pacific Steel, said she and others have complained about the factory since 1980.

"I get headaches and tightness in my chest and throat and eye irritation," she said. Air quality regulators will hold a community meeting to discuss the settlement at 7 p.m. Jan. 31 at the West Berkeley Senior Center, 1900 Sixth St.

source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/12/29/BAGQLGEB031.DTL&type=printable 29dec2005

From Bay Area News Briefs 

AP 28dec2005


Berkeley, Calif. A steel factory agreed to pay thousands of dollars in fines and install a $2 million emissions control system as part of a settlement with air quality regulators, officials said.

Pacific Steel Casting, which has been the target of hundreds of complaints by neighbors, will pay $17,500 to clear nine violations it received this year from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, officials said.

Under terms of the settlement reached last week, the Berkeley company also agreed to install the $2 million carbon filtration system at one of its three plants to reduce odor emissions.

Air quality regulators received 330 odor complaints about the factory between January of 1998 and March of 2005, with neighbors complaining that the smell of burning plastic caused headaches and nausea.

Earlier this year, a group of 150 residents formed the West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs to push for pollution controls at the facility and safeguards for employee health.

A public meeting was scheduled for Jan. 31 to discuss the settlement.

source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/12/27/state/n120548S18.DTL&hw=pacific+steel&sn=002&sc=188 29dec2005

Steel Mill Agrees to Cut Emissions

Factory in West Berkeley reaches settlement after state citations, complaints by neighbors 

KRISTIN BENDER / Oakland Tribune 28dec2005


BERKELEY A West Berkeley steel mill has been ordered to install a $2 million system to reduce odor emission and pay thousands in penalties following nine notices of violations this year from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The air district and Pacific Steel Casting, a family-owned business that has operated in West Berkeley for 74 years, reached the settlement last week following years of complaints from residents about a smell of burning plastic in the air, headaches, nausea and a tightness in their chests because of the odor.

"This settlement agreement is significant and good for the community because it includes more than just civil monetary penalties the company has agreed to reconfigure part of the facility and install state-of-the-art abatement equipment specially designed for it." said air district executive officer Jack P. Broadbent. "... This should reduce or eliminate air quality problems now and in the future."

In addition to installing the new equipment, Pacific Steel Casting will pay the air district $17,500 in penalties within 30 days of the settlement. The company has also agreed to pay a penalty of $3,000 for any day the air district receives and confirms five odor complaints.

"Our main goal is to protect public health," said air district spokesman Jack Colbourn.

The air district has not been alone in its fight to protect public health and safety. Earlier this year, West Berkeley residents formed the West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs, a grass-roots group of about 150 people trying to preserve safe jobs and prevent noxious pollution.

source: http://www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_3349908 29dec2005

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