John Geluardi, Berkeley Daily Planet, April 11, 2001
Air Study Expands to Include Samples
City officials have decided to expand a Harrison Field air study, originally
planned to measure particulate matter from auto emissions from Interstate
80, to include chrome 6 testing.
Among other uses, chrome 6 or hexavalent chrome, is an
odorless chemical used for hardening steel and making paint pigments.
The compound is commonly used in aeronautic manufacturing and in electroplating
shops. It is also a carcinogen that's hazardous when inhaled
Last month, the City Council approved $39,700 for an air
study at the soccer field, located at Harrison and Fourth streets, to
measure possible health risks to youth soccer players and nearby residents
City officials, including Lisa Caronna, head of the parks
department, Nabil Al- Hadithy, head of the toxics division and Phil
Kamlarz, deputy city manager expanded the study after Environmental
Advisory Commissioner L A Wood called their attention to a 1997 air
study, by Acurex Environmental Corp. which registered an unknown form
of chromium at the field.
The study will be conducted by Applied Measurement Science
of Fair Oaks. AMS consultant, Dr. Eric Winegar said the city will be
charged an additional $9,000 to $13,000 for the chromium test depending
on how many types of chromium and other airborne metal particles are
included in the expanded study.
In November, the city halted construction of a skateboard
park adjacent to the soccer field when excavation exposed a chromium
6 plume in groundwater about 10 feet below the surface. The source of
the plume was Western Roto Engravers, Color Tech located on Sixth Street,
about 300 feet from the field.
WRE Color Tech Manager and part owner Bill MacKay said
he voluntarily notified the city of the plume in 1990. His company has since spent nearly $1 million cleaning
up and monitoring the contamination. Al Hadithy said that the lower production would likely
mean lower emissions.
Eric Winegar, who will conduct the tests for Applied
Measurement Science, said air monitoring for both auto emission particulate
matter and chromium 6 should begin sometime in May.
The city has taken steps to remove the contaminated groundwater
at the skateboard park. Hazardous Materials Supervisor Al-Hadithy said
there is no connection between the plume and any airborne chromium discovered
in the 1997 test.
Wood said he believes that the most likely source of chromium
6, if it is in fact discovered in the air at Harrison Field, is WRE
Color Tech. "I think it's a very fair question to ask,"
Wood said. "It's not because I want to spend extra money or single
out Color Tech. I think it's the responsible thing to do."
The 1997 Acurex study was completed as part of the project's
Environmental Impact Report, prior to the development of the playing
field. The study did not elaborate on whether the chromium discovered
at the field was chromium 6 or a benign form of the chemical such as
trivalent chromium also known as chrome 3.
MacKay said he would be surprised if his plating company
was the source of airborne chromium 6.
He said the building's stack, which filters hazardous
materials from shop emissions, is covered with a special filter which
collects chrome 6 from the air and returns it to a storage tank.
MacKay said the filter's operation is recorded on a daily
basis and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District examines his
logs every year.
He said as part of his operation permit the stack is tested
every two years by an independent consultant and the results are turned
over to the BAAQMD as well.
BAAQMD Engineering Manager Ken Kunaniec said the plating
shop has a good record according to the most recent stack-testing information
he was able to find, which was dated 1993. Kunaniec said California has the toughest chrome 6 restrictions
in the nation at 0.005 milligrams per ampere-hour of production. WRE
Color Tech never emitted more than 0.003 milligrams per ampere-hour
according to BAAQMD site tests.
MacKay said since August 2000, WRE Color Tech lost a large
contract with the state, which represented two thirds of its business.
"We had to let about 40 percent of our employees go and our production
has dropped way off since," he said.