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GROUP ALERT TO TOXIC THREATS COUNCIL TO HOST DISCUSSION OF RISK.

Byline: Bhavna Mistry Staff Writer

VALENCIA - As a federal investigation of a Saugus plastics manufacturer continues, an environmental safety advocate group is hoping to educate the community of the potential dangers associated with the polyvinyl industry.

The movement, headed by the Physicians for Social Responsibility, follows a raid at Keysor Century Corp., where numerous federal agencies searched the location and seized computers and other equipment looking for environmental violations.

``Our role is to inform the community about what we know,'' said Johanna Congleton, a public health associate with Physicians for Social Responsibility. ``It's a dirty industry.''

Keysor Century Corp. was raided in February by multiple federal agencies under the direction of the FBI, investigating tips that the company released toxic and hazardous waste and falsified air emissions records in a cover-up. Vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen and can cause brain and liver damage.

No charges have been filed against the company.

``This seems to be a very extreme case,'' Congleton said.

Congleton plans to address the Santa Clarita City Council tonight, invited by Councilwoman Marsha McLean. The invitation came after a recent public meeting where a documentary on the polyvinyl industry was shown.

``Several people had expressed concern,'' McLean said. ``There are some questions that we probably need to have answered.''

In addition to asking the organization to make a presentation, McLean also has asked the city to contact the different organizations involved in the investigation and learn about the findings.

``At this point, no one knows knows if there is a problem there or not,'' said McLean. ``It's in the best interest of citizens to make sure that there are no problems there.''

In March, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has put its Springbrook Avenue property up for sale. An attorney for the company said the land is being sold in a financing move to obtain cash.

``The company is in compliance,'' Congleton said. ``There is no danger or any vinyl chloride emission.''

But the physicians group is worried about reports from the investigators that violations were found. Tipped by former Keysor employees, federal officials have said they expect an indictment against the company but have refused to discuss their findings.

``That land can be very highly contaminated,'' Congleton said. ``It's unfair for this company to pick up and leave a Superfund site.''

Keysor officials said that is not their intention.

``There are no plans to move the company or close the plant,'' said Keysor attorney Manuel Abascal. ``The land is perfectly safe. It is not contaminated.''

And with so many uncertainties, environmentalists want people to be cautious of potential exposure from the companies operation.

``We need to find out what chemicals are migrating into people's back yards,'' Congleton said. `We need to open up dialogue within the city and explain the health impacts of vinyl chloride exposure.''

Congleton said she has reports from the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Air Resources Board from the 1960s and the 1970s regarding the old Saugus School, which was near the plastics manufacturing company but closed because of high concentrations of vinyl chloride in air samples.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Plastics maker Keysor-Century Corp., whose front gate is seen in this February photo, was raided on charges it released toxic waste from its facility in Saugus.

David R. Crane/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 27, 2002
Words:554
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