T – 04 – 21
Meredith Williams, Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 23, 2021
California Orders Schnitzer Steel to Stop Releasing Hazardous Waste into West Oakland
SACRAMENTO – Today, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) ordered Schnitzer Steel, through a formal enforcement action, to put a stop to releasing their toxic pollution into the West Oakland community.
Today’s action, taken by the State’s department charged with safeguarding Californians from the harmful effects of dangerous chemicals, comes just weeks after reaching a $4.1 million settlement agreement with the metal recycling company following State investigators documenting multiple serious, alleged violations of State hazardous waste law. The order DTSC issued today on Schnitzer Steel serves as a warning to any company doing business in California that the Department will take firm action to stop any mishandling of toxic waste that threatens the health of the state’s people and environment.
While the monetary settlement reached earlier this month requires Schnitzer Steel to pay penalties and fund cleanup and environmental projects in the West Oakland community, today’s move by DTSC forces the company to fully address its business practices that have been a root cause of pollution plaguing West Oakland for years.
Schnitzer Steel’s facility on Embarcadero West, near the Port of Oakland, shreds metal materials, including used vehicles and appliances. State investigators gathered evidence of material from the shredding process, mixed with heavy metal particles containing unlawful, health-endangering concentrations of lead, zinc, and copper, drifting from the facility into the air and waterways surrounding West Oakland – a community already experiencing a disparate level of pollution.
DTSC has found approximately 18 daycare centers, 10 parks, eight schools, four senior centers, and two hospitals located within a mile of the West Oakland metal shredding facility to be under immediate and potential future threat of drift of the contamination from the Schnitzer Steel site.
“As leaders in environmental protection, we have an urgent responsibility to protect people and their communities from corporate polluters,” said DTSC Director Meredith Williams. “Our action today represents another step forward in our mission to protect all Californians from potential exposure to harmful materials that originate from metal shredding activities, and to focus our attention on communities where too many residents are already burdened by and vulnerable to dangerous pollution from multiple sources.”
DTSC’s order to Schnitzer Steel to stop the toxic pollution from drifting into West Oakland, includes requiring the company to:
- Clean up contamination both on site and within the surrounding community.
- Modify the facility as needed to prevent releases.
- Submit a plan to control immediate threats from metal-shredding practices.
Today’s corrective action order stems from CalEPA’s Environmental Justice Oakland Initiative. DTSC is currently participating in CalEPA’s statewide Environmental Justice Enforcement Initiative, which focuses on specific California communities that contain multiple sources of pollution and are disproportionately vulnerable to its effects.
More information on DTSC’s Environmental Justice program may be found on the Department’s website, along with additional information on DTSC’s oversight of metal shredding facilities and hazardous wastes.
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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.