T – 03 – 21
Meredith Williams, Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 2021
California’s Investigation of Alleged Environmental Law Violations by Schnitzer Steel’s Oakland Facility Leads to $4.1M Settlement
Settlement will fund environmental cleanup and community public health projects
SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Toxic Substances Control has agreed to a $4.1 million settlement today with Schnitzer Steel over allegations that the company’s metal shredding facility in West Oakland violated the state’s environmental laws. DTSC worked as part of a State and local joint agency prosecution team to reach the settlement, which will fund environmental cleanup and public health projects in the community.
DTSC, the California Attorney General and the Alameda County District Attorney, investigated the facility over allegations that the company releases toxic pollution into the air and waterways surrounding a West Oakland neighborhood designated as a disadvantaged community by the California Environmental Protection Agency.
“The investigation of this metal shredding facility and the resulting settlement shows the power of our partnerships with other State and local agencies,” said DTSC Director Meredith Williams. “Strong enforcement underscores our commitment to those who live and work in communities impacted by a disparate level of pollution and potential exposure.”
This settlement includes a Supplemental Environmental Project with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, a community-based environmental justice organization dedicated to achieving healthy homes, healthy jobs, and healthy neighborhoods for all who live, work, learn, and play in West Oakland.
Investigators and scientists collected dozens of samples of light fibrous material exceeding regulatory limits for lead, copper, and zinc from businesses, health offices, the Oakland Estuary, and other areas within a half mile of the Schnitzer Steel location on Embarcadero West.
“As a result of this settlement, Schnitzer will address a root cause of pollution that has impacted West Oakland for years,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley. “My Office will always take action and work collaboratively to protect the community from illegal operations that negatively impact the health of our community members and the health of our environment.”
Today’s settlement requires Schnitzer Steel to pay about $1.5 million for civil penalties, including $892,900 to DTSC, and $554,000 to reimburse the investigative and enforcement costs.
Schnitzer Steel will also fund two significant environmental projects:
- Nearly $1.9 million for the installation and maintenance of air filtration systems through a partnership with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project
- $94,000 for a mobile pediatric asthma clinic by the Prescott-Joseph Center, a nonprofit organization
Schnitzer Steel also agrees to update its metal shredding and recycling practices to protect the health of Oakland residents and the environment. The company will:
- Maintain enclosures over its metal shredding operations.
- Install equipment to abate air emissions.
- Continue to remove visible accumulations of hazardous light fibrous material.
- Stop accepting, treating, and storing hazardous waste that is generated offsite.
- Provide warnings to individuals who live or work nearby that the facility can expose them to hazardous chemicals.
Within the settlement agreement, DTSC reserves its right to continued government oversight of Schnitzer Steel’s Oakland facility and issuance of any necessary order for corrective action in the future.
“Communities in West Oakland already experience a disproportionate share of environmental pollution and some of the highest asthma rates in the state,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “So we won’t sit back while corporate polluters make the situation worse by dispersing their toxic waste into these neighborhoods and surrounding waters. Everyone deserves to breathe clean air and drink clean water. This settlement should serve as a warning to any company that believes it can put profits ahead of people.”
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FOR GENERAL INQUIRIES: Contact the Department of Toxic Substances Control by phone at (800) 728-6942 or visit www.dtsc.ca.gov. 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.