Southern California Platers Facing Lower Air Emission Standards

MFASC meeting with the South Coast Air Quality Management District over proposed lower emission levels for hexavalent chromium.
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The Metal Finishing Association of Southern California (MFASC), a chapter of the National Association for Surface Finishing (NASF) is gearing up for another hot summer fight with the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) over proposed lower emission levels for hexavalent chromium.

SCAQMD served notice earlier this year that it plans to amend Rules 1426 and 1469 of its code, which deal with emissions from metal finishing operations. Part of the change could involve lowering “fugitive” emission levels of hex chrome to between 0.2 and 1 nanograms per cubic meter.

“They want to take it to almost unbelievably low levels, which I’m not sure many shops could meet,” says Bryan Leiker, the events and membership director of the MFASC. “This is some of the strictest regulations we’ve ever seen.”

In addition, Leiker says the SCAQMD is considering requiring total enclosures for plating and anodizing operations with negative air pressure, as well as covers on all tanks that are heated or agitated that may contain chrome, including sealers and rinse tanks.

The proposed rules may also require shops to spend a substantial amount on new monitoring equipment, stronger controls on abrasive blast cabinets and grinding operations, as well as enhanced housekeeping requirements such as daily vacuuming of shops floors with HEPA machines that are then emptied in a clean room environment.

Leiker says the plating industry has already been very good environmental stewards on their own.

“Since the late 1980s, the finishing industry in southern California has lowered emissions by 99 percent and continues to follow the strictest environmental regulations in the country,” he says.

The MFASC has been meeting with SCAQMD officials since the first of the year to advise them of the ramifications of the proposed rules, as well as to offer alternative ideas for abatement. The MFASC has hired a law firm to help them in the process, and is utilizing its chief lobbyist, Jerry Desmond, as well as the national NASF office to help them work with local and state legislators on helping with the SCAQMD rules.

“We are trying to get every shop in the area to get involved in this, because it truly affects our livelihood,” says Leiker. “The southern California area is heavily aerospace and defense, and plating shops are needed in the supply chain for those manufacturers, but rules like this will be very tough to follow. The economic impact would be substantial for a small-business industry.”

That could mean companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin could move work out of the state or into nearby Mexico if shops in California can’t meet the specifications.

Leiker says the MFASC could use the support of shops in the region—and not just those who are already members of the association—by attending upcoming SCAQMD meetings, as well as taking part in several MFASC events, such a Legislative Action Day in Sacramento on May 8-9 and a fundraising golf tournament on May 22. The group is also hosting a Metal Finishing Conference in both southern and northern California; the MFASC will be Sept. 19 and the MFANC will be Sept. 21.

Information about all the events can be found at mfasc.org.