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LAFD fails to conduct portion of annual inspections of city’s hazardous materials

The California Environmental Protection Agency found 19 deficiencies during a recent audit of the Los Angeles Fire Department's hazardous materials program. (Thinkstock)
The California Environmental Protection Agency found 19 deficiencies during a recent audit of the Los Angeles Fire Department’s hazardous materials program. (Thinkstock)

The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) failed to conduct annual inspections of at least one-third of the city’s hazardous materials storage sites in recent years, state environmental protection officials said Friday.

The California Environmental Protection Agency found 19 deficiencies during a recent audit of the Los Angeles Fire Department’s hazardous materials program, including one in which 66 percent of regulated sites were given inspections in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The audit also found that in 2011, the department’s Fire Prevention Bureau’s inspectors looked at 69 percent of the sites, and 48 percent in 2010.

Sites inspected by the bureau include industrial sites where chemicals are manufactured, refineries, auto repair shops and paint stores.

The fire department has also failed to do reports for all inspections and does not require facilities to submit testing and leak detection documents.

Fire department staff also have not followed up with sites where problems such as leaks have been detected and are sometimes not physically present at hazardous materials storage sites when they do their inspections.

Agencies that fail to meet the state’s requirements could lose their ability to run the inspection program.

Cal/EPA opted to have the Los Angeles Fire Department undergo an improvement program and report back in 90 days.

Fire department officials say they have been working with Cal/EPA since November 2014 to correct many of the deficiencies found.

Fire Chief Ralph M. Terrazas said his new fire marshal, John Vidovich, is implementing an overhaul of the city’s hazardous materials storage site inspection program. Vidovich is working to add staff, upgrade technology, improve data management and doing more oversight of the inspection program, he said.

Terrazas said he is “disappointed that we lost focus of our (inspection program’s) mission, but am confident in the positive steps we are taking to correct these mistakes and in the dedicated men and women in the Fire Prevention Bureau who are tasked with making these improvements.

Jim Bohon, assistant secretary of Cal-EPA, said in a city news release that the state agency “appreciates the LAFD’s recent efforts to work toward correction of the program deficiencies.”

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