Com­pany’s woes still plague SCV

En­vi­ron­men­tal cleanup of for­mer record com­pany’s site on Rail­road Av­enue con­tin­ues

The Signal - - FRONT PAGE - By Jim Holt Sig­nal Se­nior Staff Writer

A half cen­tury ago, the hills of Santa Clarita Val­ley were alive with the sweet sounds of disco and the rock­ing gui­tar sounds of Peter Framp­ton as vinyl records were pressed and pack­aged by the Keysor Cen­tury Cor­po­ra­tion.

To­day, how­ever, the chem­i­cal rem­nants of that time are prov­ing a lit­tle less melodic and a lit­tle more per­ma­nent as the en­vi­ron­men­tal cleanup of the for­mer record com­pany site on Rail­road Av­enue con­tin­ues.

In 2004, the com­pany was fined more than $4 mil­lion by the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency for know­ingly re­leas­ing toxic waste wa­ter into the Santa Clara River.

In Jan­uary, of­fi­cials with the Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Toxic Sub­stances, con­cerned about the pos­si­ble mi­gra­tion of the can­cer-caus­ing chem­i­cal vinyl chlo­ride into the ground­wa­ter of SCV’s Sau­gus For­ma­tion aquifer, called for tests to be done on the ground­wa­ter. Ground­wa­ter re­sults are ex­pected any day. And, as state of­fi­cials wait for the re­sults of those ground­wa­ter tests car­ried out on the for­mer record-mak­ing site, one long­time Santa Clarita Val­ley res­i­dent who worked for the com­pany re­calls a starkly dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­men­tal world a half cen­tury ago and the com­pany’s tur­bu­lent tran­si­tion.

For­mer em­ployee

The worker, who did not want to be iden­ti­fied in the story by name, was an em­ployee of Keysor Cen­tury’s record-mak­ing sub­sidiary

be­fore the com­pany filed for bank­ruptcy in 2004.

Betty, not her real name, said she stuffed records in record jack­ets, be­tween shrink wrap ma­chines that pack­aged the records and ma­chines which pressed the blob of “car­bon black” onto hit records.

Some of the records she re­mem­bered be­ing pressed in­cluded hit records by Elvis Pres­ley, Peter Framp­ton and many oth­ers, she said.

She par­tic­u­larly re­calls press­ing the 1980 hit Xanadu by Olivia New­ton John. “Xanadu” the ti­tle song from the sound­track al­bum of the same name, sung by Olivia New­ton John.

But, those were the sweet days.

“I can’t stop cough­ing,” Betty told The Sig­nal Tues­day in a sit-down in­ter­view.

Can­cer con­cerns

“I re­mem­ber my doc­tor telling me at the time, ‘You don’t want to work with that stuff. It’ll cause can­cer. I’m se­ri­ous’ he said. ‘It’ll take lots of years but it’ll give you can­cer.’”

Al­though she does not have can­cer, Betty has lived with her per­sis­tent cough for 40 years, she said.

She said she re­mem­bers the day of­fi­cials from Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion vis­ited the record com­pany, con­cerned about work­ers ex­posed to harm­ful chem­i­cals such as vinyl chlo­ride.

“I asked the OSHA per­son ‘How much ex­po­sure am I get­ting work­ing be­side the shrink wrap ma­chine all day?’ and I asked ‘How many chem­i­cals am I ex­posed to?,’” Betty said. “They said ‘We’ll get back to you.”

Keysor’s record-mak­ing sub­sidiary, Cen­tury Record Man­u­fac­tur­ing Com­pany, was a cus­tom la­bel record­ing com­pany and record man­u­fac­turer that set up shop in Sau­gus in 1958.

Ac­cord­ing to DTSC, from 1958 to 2003, Keysor, also op­er­ated a PVC man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity on Spring­brook Av­enue, off of Rail­road Av­enue, where the records were pressed, pack­aged and shipped.

Prior to the con­struc­tion of the sewer sys­tem in 1963, waste from the PVC man­u­fac­tur­ing and record-mak­ing was ex­clu­sively dis­posed of into an un­lined pond on the east side of its op­er­a­tion.

In Jan­uary 1974, Keysor was or­dered to stop dump­ing its waste­water into that pond.

Aquifer con­cerns

In de­scrib­ing con­cerns about the for­mer Keysor site, Toxic Sub­stances of­fi­cials note on the DTSC web­site that vinyl chlo­ride was the big con­cern and that it could af­fect the Sau­gus “aquifer used for drink­ing wa­ter sup­ply.”

Engi­neers at the be­quest of Toxic Sub­stance Project Man­ager Jose Diaz mon­i­tored the ground­wa­ter less than two years ago, but, be­cause of the drought they found: “All of the shal­low wells ex­cept for one, at the far end of the site, have gone dry, so there is not much to re­port.”

They noted, how­ever, that since the wells were dry the “re­sults can­not be con­sid­ered rep­re­sen­ta­tive.”

But, as long trace amounts of con­tam­i­nants con­tinue to be found on site, test­ing of air and wa­ter qual­ity is ex­pected to con­tinue.

The same engi­neers, how­ever, tested the same ground­wa­ter in Jan­uary 2013, be­fore the drought and found a plume con­tain­ing vinyl chlo­ride mov­ing into the Sau­gus aquifer.

They noted that the “TCE plume ex­tends west­ward, off­site, to­wards pro­duc­tion well Sau­gus 1.

“It ap­pears that the trichloroethy­lene (an in­dus­trial sol­vent called TCE) has mi­grated to the al­lu­vial aquifer, while the Dichloroacetic acid, or DCA, and vinyl chlo­ride are con­tained within the Sau­gus Aquifer.”

The re­sults of ground­wa­ter tests car­ried out in Jan­uary are ex­pected to ap­pear in the next quar­terly re­port, the next few weeks.


The last time the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency in­spected the for­mer Keysor site was just over 10 years ago.

In 2000, it be­came the sub­ject of a probe by the EPA when its Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Divi­sion dis­cov­ered the firm had know­ingly re­leased toxic waste­water into the Santa Clara River, and emit­ted can­cer-caus­ing air pol­lu­tants at high lev­els, while fal­si­fy­ing emis­sion re­ports to state and fed­eral agen­cies, ac­cord­ing to an EPA news re­lease is­sued in June 2004.

The com­pany also il­le­gally stored and han­dled haz­ardous waste, and main­tained its plant in a way that posed a threat of re­lease of haz­ardous sub­stances.

Keysor Cen­tury Corp went out of busi­ness in 2003.

A year later, com­pany of­fi­cials agreed to plead guilty to a se­ries of fed­eral felony charges and pay more than $4 mil­lion in civil and crim­i­nal penal­ties and pay resti­tu­tion for pol­lut­ing from its Sau­gus man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity, as well as ly­ing about its em­ployee’s over-ex­po­sure to toxic chem­i­cals, ac­cord­ing to the EPA.

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