Local air quality regulators on Wednesday announced they are seeking an order to reduce emissions of a toxic chemical at Lubeco Inc., a Long Beach metal-finishing plant.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District filed a petition with an independent hearing board Friday seeking the order to require Lubeco to reduce emissions of hexavalent chromium beyond existing requirements. The petition is scheduled to be taken up at an Aug. 23 hearing.

“As a result of our exhaustive and complex investigations of toxic emissions from metal processing facilities, we have identified Lubeco as a source of elevated emissions of hexavalent chromium,” Wayne Nastri, the air district’s executive officer, said in a statement. “We are seeking this order to protect the health and safety of residents in this area.”

Hexavalent chromium is commonly used as a coating for metals in aerospace components. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the chemical in sufficient concentrations is associated with respiratory ailments and liver and kidney damage, among other things.

The air district has been more aggressive in regulating hexavalent chromium emissions from metal plating and finishing plants in the mid-cities region over the past year in response to stepped up pressure from residents and environmental groups. Among the other companies targeted were Anaplex Corp. and Aerocraft Heat Treating, both in Paramount.

The district is also in the process of amending its hexavalent chromium rule to lower the emissions concentration threshold that would trigger enforcement activity.

An environmental consultant representing Lubeco said late Wednesday that the company has been caught in a changing situation with regard to chromium and is cooperating with air district officials.

“The company is in compliance with all the existing laws and regulations with regard to emissions of hexavalent chromium,” said Bruce Armbruster, vice president of Jorgensen Environmental in Rancho Cucamonga. “It’s just that the entire paradigm around hexavalent chromium is changing, and everyone – including the company – is trying to adjust.”

Armbruster said a major reduction in allowable emissions of hexavalent chromium would have a “substantial impact on company operations.”

Lubeco, which has been at its Long Beach location at 6859 Downey Ave. since 1986, has 53 employees. Most of its clients are component suppliers to aerospace companies.

Public policy and energy reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.

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