Sims under pressure after California wildfire

The Sacramento, Calif., Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) ordered the operators of the Sims Metal automatic crushing facility in Redwood City, Calif., “to determine the extent of toxic pollution originating from their facility and clean it.”

The attention at the Redwood City shredding plant comes after a March 9 fire in the yard. “The cleanup investigation and assessment will include recent and historical releases to the facility, including any impact from [the] March 9 fire,” writes the DTSC.

The DTSC has undertaken a consistent and sometimes highly visible campaign to examine emissions to air and water from automatic crushing plants, as the issue is the focus of its website homepage. At times, his scrutiny focused on the Schnitzer Steel Industries yard in Oakland, California, or the SA Recycling yard near Los Angeles.

On at least one occasion, recycling companies and their advocates have successfully challenged orders or actions taken by the DTSC.

The DTSC is concerned about the potential health impacts to people living and working near the Sims Redwood City facility. The 12-acre recycling and shredding operation “is also adjacent to Redwood Creek, a public trail and two islands that are part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge,” writes the DTSC, adding that Redwood Creek leads to the San Francisco Bay.

“Metal recycling facilities caught our attention because of the potential exposure to harmful materials from these types of operations,” says DTSC Director Dr. Meredith Williams.

The agency describes the Redwood City shredder yard as where Sims “receives, sorts, separates and stores bulk metal scrap for sale and export, and operates a conveyor that deposits the material onto ships.”

The agency cites concerns about “elevated levels of lead, zinc and cadmium both on-site and off-site”. In 2019, the DTSC says its inspectors “discovered hazardous waste levels of toxic chemicals at multiple locations on the facility grounds. Inspectors also found an accumulation of lightweight fibrous materials, a hazardous substance, on the facility’s pavement and near its operations.

Regarding its latest enforcement order, the DTSC says “named parties must meet certain deadlines and submit required investigation reports to DTSC, including a contamination cleanup plan.” The DTSC says it will “also notify the surrounding community so residents can weigh in on the proposed cleanup plan.”

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