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State Regulators Demand OC Metal Plant Make Major Changes Or Shut Down

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NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA.com)  — California state regulators are demanding a metal plant in Newport Beach change its operations or shut its doors.

Regulators say Hixson Metal Finishing releases a chemical compound into the air that poses a huge cancer risk for workers and people who live nearby.

KCAL9’s Jeff Nguyen spoke to area residents.

Seven air quality monitors sit in and outside the Hixson facility. One of the monitors is installed on the carport at the apartment complex right next door.

In late February, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) issued notices to the County saying Hixson poses an “unacceptably high” cancer risk to its neighbors.

“They’ll be certain days when the weather is dry and quiet and you’ll just smell, it almost smells like plastic but it’s yucky,” says neighbor Valerie Miller.

“I’m aware they do metal coating and they work around the clock usually,” said neighbor Lucas Olson.

Here’s what the AQMD report found:

• The cancer risk to workers at the plant is 120 in a million.

•  The cancer risk to residents is between 330-375 in a million.

The reason may be the work that the company undertakes. They apply Chromium 6 to metals.

Hixson’s president says his company has been working with the AQMD since 2011 to design ventilation and filtration systems to improve air quality.

In fact, the agency was on the property today to take samples.

Hixson’s Douglas Greene told Nguyen there are other businesses in the neighborhood and that they may also be producing the cancer-causing compound.

“I would say that there’s a fair element of a mystery,” said Greene.

But according to AQMD ts monitors point to the Hixson plant as the source.

Greene says his company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to keep the air clean.

“We just want to know as a company, we want to know as good citizens, good neighbors and a good employer, where exactly these issues are coming from. If it’s us, we’ll fix it. We know how to fix it. If it’s not us, let’s go find the source,” Greene added.

At least one resident said he wasn’t too concerned living close to the Hixson plant.

“[The numbers] are alarming but comparable to other cities like you said LA and stuff I’m not too worried about it,” Matthew Medford said.

The AQMD says the average cancer risk in Southern California — from all air pollution sources combined — is about 1,200 in 1 million.

But it also says the volume of Chromium 6 coming from just one business is simply too high.

That’s why the AQMD said they would file a petition for an abatement by the end of the month even though it doesn’t think there’s an imminent threat to health and safety.

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