Air Study Expands to Include
Samples of Chromiu

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John Geluardi, Berkeley Daily Planet, April 11, 2001

Air Study Expands to Include Samples of Chromium

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 or ingested.

air quality disclosureLast 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 and employees.

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.

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