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EMBATTLED PLANT TO QUIT PRODUCING RISKY RESIN ENVIRONMENTALISTS PLEASED.

Byline: Bhavna Mistry Staff Writer

SAUGUS - A Saugus plastics manufacturer under investigation for violating environmental standards is ceasing its resin-manufacturing operation in hopes it will no longer face environmental regulations, company attorneys said.

The announcement of the shutdown pleases an environmental group that has been monitoring operations at Keysor-Century Corp. since February, when the company came under investigation by a multitude of federal agencies for numerous criminal environmental violations that go several years into the company's past.

``This is good news for the community,'' said Johanna Congleton, a public health associate with the Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles. ``They won't be operating their reactors and releasing deadly toxins.''

Company attorneys released few details about the planned closure of the resin operation, saying it was expected by year's end but would not say what prompted the decision. The company will continue to produce polyvinyl chloride pellets.

``It was a considered business decision,'' said Manny Abascal of Latham and Watkins, an environmental law firm representing the company. ``Keysor-Century was not ordered to shut down its resin plant.''

By ceasing the resin operation, Keysor officials said they would not be subject to strict environmental guidelines as they have been in the past and therefore should not have to worry about compliance issues.

``We don't expect any future regulations because we won't be doing this,'' Abascal said. ``We won't be subject to EPA jurisdiction.''

In February, multiple federal agencies under the direction of the FBI, raided Keysor's plant near San Fernando Road, investigating claims that the company repeatedly released toxic and hazardous waste and falsified air emissions records in an organized cover-up.

Among the claims, EPA officials said they found data showing the plant's air emissions exceeded limits on its quarterly reports.

Since the investigation started, the company has been notified of civil violations from a variety of federal, state and local agencies. No criminal charges have been filed.

Company officials said they are in compliance and always have been. That is contradicted by the environmental group.

``Even with the criminal investigation proceedings, they can't come into compliance,'' Congleton said. ``It's almost impossible for them to ever come into compliance, and it's the best remedy for them to shut down.''

Vinyl chloride, a colorless, flammable gas and a known carcinogen, is a component in the manufacturing of polyvinyl chloride. Risks associated with vinyl chloride are primarily to workers who might be exposed to the chemical during processing.

As part of the operations, Keysor-Century currently manufacturers resin, a powder substance used to make PVC compound. The company will continue to manufacture the compound but cease production of the powder, which entails a highly regulated and volatile process.

Instead of manufacturing the resin on site, Keysor-Century will order it from other manufacturers, company officials said.

``They won't be operating reactors that can release deadly toxins,'' Congleton said. ``They won't be handling as many carcinogenic and volatile chemicals, which is pretty significant.''

Throughout the investigation process, officials have denied any wrongdoing and maintained that they have been in total compliance.

``Whatever is pending now, we will still need to address,'' Abascal said of citations the company faces. ``We are cooperating with the EPA.''

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.

A hearing is slated for Jan. 15 to discuss the bankruptcy filing.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 11, 2002
Words:576
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