But Gregg Industries is not subject to the newer standards because the factory was built in the 1940s, long before more stringent pollution rules were enacted in California. Company officials did not return phone calls. While nearby residents in the city have complained about the odors, Gregg’s lawyer, William Funderburk, said the company has gone above and beyond requirements, including changing to a different type of sand used in smelting operations to make the fumes less odorous. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent,” said Funderburk, according to tapes of a recent AQMD hearing. “Nine new exhaust fans were installed, and the order only required three.” Residents are upset at a recent ruling that relaxed restrictions on Gregg’s operations. They fear the smells they say have plagued their community are linked to the excessive amounts of particulate matter. EL MONTE – Long criticized for emitting foul odors, an iron foundry has legally released pollutants well in excess of current emission standards for years, state data show. One of the primary pollutants El Monte-based Gregg Industries discharges is called fine particulate matter, or PM10, according to the California Air Resources Board. The state agency says the company released 13.2 tons of it in 2005, the most recent figure available. Mohsen Nazemi, an official with the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s engineering and compliance division, said modern foundries are limited to four tons of particulate matter emissions per year. Once that threshold is reached, companies have to offset all of their pollutants by purchasing credits from cleaner facilities. “We probably would not approve Gregg’s equipment today,” he said. Exposure to high levels of PM10 – the number refers to the size of the particles, roughly one-seventh the width of a human hair – can cause lung damage, cancer and premature death, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. State Air Resources Board documents suggest up to 8,200 adult deaths a year in California are linked to exposure. Nazemi said that even if Gregg were held to current standards, it would be able to exceed the 4 ton threshold by purchasing emission reduction credits. Such credits are generated by factories when they emit less pollutants than they are allowed to under law. The new rules require facilities exceeding the 4-ton threshold to offset 120 percent of their total emissions. For example, a company spewing 10 tons of pollutants would have to purchase enough credits to offset a total of 12 tons of emissions. Critics of emission credit trading say that unless the credits are traded with facilities within the same community, it doesn’t benefit those living near excessive polluters. Under AQMD rules, Gregg could purchase emission credits from facilities anywhere in the entire Southland. “If they are offsetting based on emissions within their own facility that can be a good way to approach the issue,” said Julia May, a senior scientist with Communities for a Better Environment. “Otherwise all this does is exacerbate toxic hot spots, particularly in communities of color.” AQMD officials decided last month to allow restrictions placed on Gregg Industries’ operations to expire. The move allows the company to resume foundry operations between 3 and 9 p.m., which had been prohibited. As recently as last November, the hearing board suggested closing down the Hickson Street plant because of ongoing neighborhood complaints, despite the restrictions imposed on the plant since March 2006. That was triggered when Gregg received two AQMD-issued violations for excessive odor in 2005. But at the Sept. 19 hearing, the board determined that the company had made sufficient progress. “Since the board issued the abatement order, Gregg Industries has substantially complied with all the conditions of the order,” said Sam Atwood, an AQMD spokesman. “Significantly, there have not been orders of violation issued since those first two (in 2005).” But some residents insist that problems still exist with the plant, which is located about a mile from Rio Vista Elementary School. “On June 29 the smell was the worst it has ever been,” said Joe Blackburn, a Whitney Drive resident who lives a half-mile from Gregg and a vocal critic. He described the smell as an acrid, burnt plastic odor. Figures from the AQMD show complaints about the plant have dropped from about 47 in October 2006 to about 25 in April 2007 and about 12 in August. The latest figures are still more than the five complaints logged at the start of the order in March 2006. Atwood admitted that the plant continues to emit odors. But he said that the AQMD reporting standards require a certain amount of people to be affected by the smell in order for a violation to be issued. “It would have to be a half-dozen or more households reporting the same incident, and our inspectors have to come and verify the odor and track it back to the source,” he said. “We have certainly had hundreds of complaints since the original violations in 2005, but none of them have met the test of being a public nuisance.” Atwood added that since the Gregg violations had nothing to do with particulate emissions, those emissions would not be considered as part of a final resolution with the company. But there could be additional conditions to ensure odors are limited, like imposing permanent time restrictions on foundry operations, he said. “We hope to reach a conclusion perhaps later this month on a settlement with Gregg,” said Atwood. “There is a high likelihood it will involve a supplemental project by the company that would involve Gregg spending money to further reduce air pollution in the community above and beyond what is required.” But the decisions by the agency have done little to placate residents such Bob Wellemin. “The bottom line is, if AQMD has already spent all this time and their inspectors admit time after time that they can smell the odors, why are they dropping the order or abatement?” said Wellemin, who lives about a mile from the plant in Temple City. “They are in charge of air quality management. I just don’t understand it.” firstname.lastname@example.org (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!