Release 92-13      
October 1, 1992
  CONTACT: Jerry Martin
(916) 322-2990
State and Local Air Quality Officials Settle Imperial County Pollution Violations

The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA), its Air Resources Board (ARB) and Imperial County air quality management officials today announced settlements with gold mine and a cement plant over violations of local air quality rules.

"Air quality rules are vital to protecting public health, but they are only as good as their enforcement," said James M. Strock, California's Secretary for Environmental Protection. "When necessary, Cal/EPA will step in to help local agencies enforce California's high environment standards. Everyone must expect air quality rules -- in Imperial County and throughout the state -- to be taken seriously."

American Girl Mining Company, located in Winterhaven, has agreed to a $75,000 settlement for violations of permit issued by the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District, including the use of illegal diesel fuel and disconnecting air pollution control equipment designed to reduce dust emissions. The settlement also is based on operating a portable cement batch plant without an air quality permit and changing some of the mine's operations without properly notifying the air pollution control district.

The violations were discovered during an ARB inspection of the site in March, 1992, as part of an audit of the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District. Subsequently, ARB and other cal/EPA investigators helped local officials document the violations and negotiate the settlement.

The inspection discovered a portable cement batch plant being operated by a subcontractor that was not covered by the mine's county-issued permit, resulting in no control of its emissions. Inspectors also discovered that a fan was disconnected in a baghouse used to control dust emissions from a silo, and that fuel used in diesel generators contained sulfur levels four times higher than state standards, resulting in excessive emissions.

The settlement is also based on changes to a sprinkling system that resulted in increased emissions of hydrogen cyanide, a chemical used to separate gold from ore. While the increased emissions did not result in an increased health threat, investigators did note that changes in the system were illegal because they were not approved ahead of time by the local air pollution control district.

The settlement also is based on the mine's failure to provide the state with quarterly records of diesel engine use and monitoring excessive dust emissions at the mine.

The $75,000 settlement will be paid in ten monthly installments to ease the financial burden on the mine.

Cal/EPA, the ARB and the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District also have reached an $8,000 settlement with Ryerson Concrete of El Centro, for failing to control dust at its rock crushing and aggregate facility, which resulted in plumes of dust that prompted complaints from nearby residents. Ryerson also is redesigning a water spray device to reduce future dust-like emissions.

The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.

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