Auto shredder to pay $2.9 million to settle toxic waste case
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control and Los Angeles district attorney's office announced a $2.9-million settlement Thursday with an Anaheim scrap metal company over allegations that it improperly handled hazardous materials.
A judge has accepted the agreement, which resolves complaints that the owner and operator of SA Recycling and Simms Metal West violated hazardous waste and air pollution laws by continuing operations after an air pollution control system was damaged by a May 2007 explosion at its Port of Los Angeles site.
At the time of the violations, the company was operated by Sims Hugo Neu West, a subsidiary of Sims Group Limited, which acquired substantially all of the recycling operations of Hugo Neu Corp. in October 2005. Sims Group merged the metal recycling operation with Adams Steel in 2007, creating SA Recycling, LLC.
The facility shreds automobiles, household appliances and other metal-based waste.
"We continue to deny that any of these allegations occurred," company spokesman Michael Bustamante said Thursday. "We're happy to put this behind us for the sake of the company and for the sake of the community."
The Department of Toxic Substances Control estimated that about 4.4 tons of unspecified "material" was released into the environment during that period.
State regulators have turned their attention to auto shredders and scrap processors, which crush and compress motor vehicles, consumer goods and other items for recycling, but leave behind residue dubbed "auto fluff," consisting of glass, rubber, fiber, engine fluids and plastics, among other substances.
The complaint alleges that shredder residue "was illegally transported by unregistered hazardous waste haulers; the hazardous waste was illegally stored on site beyond the time permitted; the company failed to comply with employee training obligations; and the company illegally disposed of hazardous waste at the Simi Valley Landfill in Ventura County, the Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Santa Clarita and at SA Recycling facility in Anaheim."
Debbie Raphael, director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, said the agreement "will enhance this facility’s ability to stay in compliance with air emissions requirements. More work needs to be done with the metal shredder industry. Addressing the range of issues associated with this industry is one of my top priorities.”
Under the settlement, the company will pay $480,000 to a variety of academic, community and research organizations. In addition, it will reimburse $428,640 for investigative costs and equipment to the state, and another $321,175 to Los Angeles County for civil penalties, investigative costs and equipment.
The company also will spend $1.7 million to install and update the air pollution control system at the Terminal Island shredding facility.
[For the Record, 1:27 p.m., Sept. 20: A previous version of this post included incorrect information from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office about the ownership and subsequent sale of the shredding facility. It was not owned by Hugo Neu Corp. at the time of the violations.]
-- Geoff Mohan
Photo: A truck is scrapped at SA Recycling's Terminal Island facility in 2008. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times