Calif. AG sues over toxic dust

Legal News Line Jul. 4, 2008, 2:15pm

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - California Attorney General Jerry Brown is suing TXI Riverside Cement Co. for exposing people to cancer-causing dust.

State law requires that special warnings should have been provided, which Brown said, the Riverside, Calif.-based cement plant failed to do.

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

The South Coast Air Quality Management District discovered in late 2007 that the ambient quantities of the potent carcinogen were up to 50 times the level that would trigger the need for a public warning under the state's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, known as Proposition 65, the attorney general's press release stated.

Proposition 65 is designed to protect California residents from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm by informing them about exposure dangers. Under the act, businesses that expose people to these chemicals must give "clear and reasonable warning" to all those exposed.

TXI reached a settlement with the South Coast Air Quality Management District last week when the company agreed to pay $1 million in penalties and make additional site improvements.

Brown's lawsuit alleges that the defendants allowed uncovered piles of dust to remain on the property, which was then blown into the air where it could be inhaled by workers. The defendant, Brown claimed, knew the dust contained hexavalent chromium since 2006.

Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen that was identified to the state on Feb. 27, 1989. It is the same chemical that polluted the groundwater in San Bernardino County, which was chronicled in the movie, "Erin Brockovich."

Brown and Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco sued the company in Riverside County Superior Court on Thursday.

The state is also suing the company for violating California's unfair competition laws. The state is seeking an undisclosed amount of penalties and restitution, the attorney general's office said.

Messages seeking comment left at the plant in Riverside and the Delaware corporate offices have not been returned.

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