News Release

T – 1 – 20
Meredith Williams, Director

January 2, 2020

Contact: Gamaliel Ortiz
(916) 327-4383
Abbott Dutton

Bay Area Appliance Recycler Agrees to $145,760 Penalty for Mishandling and Burning Hazardous Waste

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Toxic Substances Control today announced an agreement with Bay Area appliance recycler Freon Free, which will pay a penalty of $145,760 for its mishandling and incineration of hazardous waste.

DTSC inspectors found Freon Free was burning hazardous waste without a permit, increasing the risk of an on-site fire or explosion. DTSC also learned that for years Freon Free was improperly treating two to three ammonia-containing refrigerators per week by bolt-cutting refrigerant lines and releasing their contents into a container with water. This manner of treating ammonia without a permit violates legal requirements and could result in serious injury.

“California law sets forth clear guidelines and a certification process for handlers of discarded appliances,” said DTSC Director Meredith Williams. “The inherent dangers posed to the public and environment by certain components, including materials that require special handling, must be taken seriously and mitigated by recycling companies.”

DTSC’s Office of Criminal Investigations and Enforcement and Emergency Response Division conducted on-site inspections at Freon Free locations in Fairfield, American Canyon, and Orland. Inspectors found Freon Free was treating and storing hazardous waste without a permit; removing materials that require special handling at locations that were not certified; inadequately training staff on how to manage waste; and using other hazardous waste management practices that conflict with the state’s Hazardous Waste Control Law and Health and Safety Code.

Under California law, those who recycle discarded major appliances that contain materials requiring special handling, also known as MRSH, must meet certification requirements. Handlers who demonstrate the ability to properly remove and manage waste in accordance with all applicable hazardous waste control laws are approved by DTSC’s Certified Appliance Recycler Program.

To prevent the release of dangerous components in appliances, handlers are required to remove mercury, oils, refrigerants, polychlorinated biphenyls, and any other materials that are regulated as hazardous waste. Freon Free may continue to remove MRSH as part of the agreement.

The consent judgement can be viewed here.

About the Office of Criminal Investigations

The Office of Criminal Investigations is a special investigation unit within DTSC consisting of peace officers, scientists, and a computer forensics specialist who investigate criminal misconduct involving hazardous waste in California. OCI is the only criminal investigations unit within the California Environmental Protection Agency.

About the Division of Enforcement and Emergency Response

The mission of the Enforcement and Emergency Response Division is to protect human health and the environment through consistent and timely investigations, enforcement, and emergency response in conjunction with other state, federal and local agencies.

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FOR GENERAL INQUIRIES: Contact the Department of Toxic Substances Control by phone at (800) 728-6942 or visit To report illegal handling, discharge, or disposal of hazardous waste, call the Waste Alert Hotline at (800) 698-6942.

The mission of DTSC is to protect California’s people and environment from harmful effects of toxic substances by restoring contaminated properties, enforcing hazardous waste law, reducing hazardous waste generation, and encouraging the manufacture of chemically safer products.