Los Angeles Times
September 14, 1996, METRO, PART B, PAGE 1
used with permission from LATIMES
AQMD Restricts High-Polluting Cleaning Solvents
TIMES ENVIRONMENTAL WRITER
its three-year impasse in enacting major rules to fight
smog, the region's air quality board ordered
about 32,000 Southern California businesses Friday to
stop using high-polluting, petroleum-based cleaning
mandate, effective in two years, is one of the single
most efficient anti-smog measures that the South Coast
Air Quality Management District anticipates adopting
over the next two decades.
decision came after a debate pitting businesses that
support low-polluting, water-based solvents against
those that favor the old products. Effective cleaning
compounds are essential to all manufacturers and auto
repair shops for scouring parts and keeping machinery in
decision was considered pivotal for the AQMD. It is the
first time since 1993 that the board, criticized by many
conservative legislators and business leaders for its
aggressive attack on pollution in the 1980s, has cut a
substantial source of emissions from local businesses by
enacting a measure outlined in its smog plan.
next few months, the AQMD board will consider enacting a
series of other long-delayed and controversial
vote, AQMD board Chairman Jon Mikels said the new
solvent mandate constitutes "a significant fraction" of
the reductions in air pollution planned by the board and
is "one of the most difficult ones" because of some
opposition. But Mikels, a San Bernadino County
supervisor, said the companies have a long period to
adjust and he expects the mandate to help, not harm, the
Businesses in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San
Bernadino counties must switch from the highly
evaporative chemical compounds to water-based
detergents, acetone or other low-polluting alternatives
for cleaning metal parts and machinery, no later than
January, 1999. Exempted industries include
aerospace, semiconductors and dry-cleaning plants.
petroleum-based cleaners are a significant contributor
to Southern California's smog, and they create large
volumes of hazardous waste.
Use of the low-polluting solvents will eliminate
hydrocarbons in the air equivalent to those produced by
365,000 average cars on the road, or almost
twice the emissions or the area's giant oil refineries,
according to the air quality officials. The solvent
mandate will remove more hydrocarbons than any rule
adopted by the AQMD in the previous eight years.
The decision originally
had been expected to be an easy and non-controversial one
for the board members because the AQMD estimates
that water-based solvents would save the businesses an
estimated $4.5 million per year.
opposition was led by a large, influential company,
Illinois-based Safety-Kleen Corp., which sells solvents
and services related equipment at 27,000 of the affected
Southland businesses and 400,000 nationwide.
representatives said mandating use of the alternative
cleaners would hurt many auto repair shops and other
small businesses because the substances are sometimes
less effective and more time-consuming, and can have
higher start-up and maintenance costs.
the businesses said they will ask the state Legislature
to overturn the rule. The board's two most conservative
members, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike
Antonovich, left the meeting before the 7-1 vote in
favor of the new mandate.
businesses, however, that use or supply the
low-polluting detergents told the board they are just as
effective and safer to use. Some accused Safety-Kleen of
trying to preserve its dominant market share and prevent
others from selling better and cheaper products.
AQMD analysis found that water-based products generally
cost about half as much to buy, and because most are
nontoxic and biodegradable, about half as much to
dispose of. Still, without the regulation
speeding up transition, many repair shops and industries
have been reluctant to change.
long overdue….The people who use this product use it
because it works, it's safe and it's responsible," said
Bill Sheaffer, vice president of Mirachem Corp., and
Arizona company that supplies nontoxic solvents.
environmental impact of disposing of the detergents with
the accompanying grease and grime into the sewers has
not yet been studied by local water officials. Still,
the region's county sewage agencies and the city of Los
Angeles supported the rule because the AQMD vowed to
help eliminate any harm to water quality.
Ruderman Feuer, a senior attorney of the Natural
Resources Defense Council, said the concerns about water
quality are minor compared with those about the
petroleum cleaners, which pose more serious hazards when
they are dumped illegally into sewers.
executive of the Wilson administration's air board,
Michael Kenny, supported the new rule, calling it a
"critical step in maintaining progress" toward combating
smog statewide. A top U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency air quality official agreed.
The new cleaners must contain virtually no volatile
organic compounds, which evaporate and react with
nitrogen oxides in sunlight to form ozone, a potent gas