Brown Sues Cement Plant For Hexavalent Chromium Exposure

RIVERSIDE- (July 3, 2008)California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and District Attorney Rod Pacheco today sued TXI International, a Riverside cement plant, for exposing people to the potent carcinogen hexavalent chromium without providing warnings to the community as required by law.

“Dust, which contained elevated levels of cancer-causing hexavalent chromium, escaped into the air in violation of state law,” Attorney General Brown said. “California is suing the company to get them to stop their practices which cause chromium exposure.”

In late 2007, the South Coast Air Quality Management District discovered that ambient quantities of hexavalent chromium, a potent carcinogen, were up to 50 times the level that would trigger a mandatory public warning under Proposition 65, the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. Investigators traced the source of the chromium to dust piles on a four acre plot at a cement factory operated by TXI International.

Since 2006 the company knew that there were four acres of uncovered and unwetted dust piles that contained chromium at a cement plant it operated. The company knew that fugitive emissions from the dust piles were spreading into the surrounding areas, including the nearby Fleetwood Motor Homes facility, where the emissions caused exposure to hexavalent chromium to persons living, working, or otherwise present in the area.

Proposition 65 was enacted to protect California citizens from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals. Businesses that expose people to those chemicals must give clear and reasonable warning to the people being exposed. The law requires a warning for chromium if exposure would create a 1 in 100,000 risk of contracting cancer. The Air Quality Management District estimated the chromium levels near the cement plant were up to 50 times that amount.

In today’s lawsuit Brown asserts that the exposures occurred because defendants allowed uncovered piles of dust to remain on a property owned by the cement manufacturer. The company’s deliberate and intentional acts have resulted in the hexavalent chromium emissions getting into the air where it has been inhaled by people near the area.

“The lawsuit filed in collaboration with the California Attorney General’s Office will help protect the environment for the people who live in this community now as well as future generations,” said Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco.

The piles of chromium-containing dust are a by-product of grinding and heating raw materials, such as limestone, clay, silica, in a kiln during preparation to create concrete. After heating these materials, the resulting pebble-like particles, called clinker, are stored for long periods before other materials are added to create the final cement product. Investigators found that the company maintained approximately 80 tons of unwetted dust on four acres at a cement plant.

When wind or atmospheric conditions raise dust from the piles into the surrounding air, this results in emissions of the material contained in the dust. These emissions are called “fugitive emissions.” Defendants have known since at least 2006 that the dust at the cement plant contained hexavalent chromium.

Brown and Pacheco are suing on Thursday in Riverside County Superior Court in Riverside for violations of the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. Violators are liable for civil penalties of up to $2500 per day for each violation. Under the act, also known as Proposition 65, businesses must provide a clear and reasonable warning before exposing individuals to dangerous chemicals.

Brown is also suing the company for violating the state’s unfair competition laws, a statue which allows up to $2500 per violation. The state is seeking an undisclosed amount of penalties and restitution.

Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen that was identified as a chemical known to the State to cause cancer on February 27, 1987.

Recently, the company agreed to pay the local air district $600,000 in penalties and spend $400,000 toward site improvements as part of an agreement to reduce the amount of toxic cement dust escaping from a factory north of Riverside. That settlement requires the company to eliminate outdoor storage of unprocessed cement, which was found to be a source of dust carrying hexavalent chromium into neighborhoods near the plant in the Rubidoux area.

Defendant TXI Riverside, Inc. is a Delaware Corporation that operates a cement plant at 1500 Rubidoux Blvd. in the City of Riverside. See, CAAG