RELEASE: Senator De Leόn Accuses DTSC of “repeated failures to protect our most vulnerable communities” - Demands Polluting Hazardous Waste Plants Be Shut Down

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

SACRAMENTO – Senator Kevin de Leόn (D-Los Angeles) today accused the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) of “repeated failures to protect our most vulnerable communities from toxic polluters,” in testimony before a Senate Environmental Quality Committee oversight hearing on California’s hazardous waste regulatory system. At the hearing the committee voted 6-0 in support of Senate Bill 812 (De Leόn) to strengthen the hazardous waste regulatory system and set deadlines for when final permit decisions must be made by DTSC.

“This is not a Southern California or a Northern California problem.  Poor communities statewide are at risk of being poisoned because the department in charge is not doing its job,” said Senator De Leόn.  “We have toxic hazardous waste including lead, mercury and arsenic, being dumped or sitting at sites including L.A., Sacramento, Richmond, and Santa Fe Springs, that is not being properly regulated.”

The Senator said he had met with the department numerous times and was still not satisfied with their progress.  “It’s time to say stop. Facilities not in compliance with the law must be shut down.” said Senator De Leόn.

The Exide battery plant in Vernon has been allowed to operate for 32 years on an interim permit, while is has repeatedly violated environmental and public health standards.  Phibro Tech, a chemical manufacturer in Santa Fe Springs has been allowed to operate on an expired permit for 17 years.  American Power, an electrical clean up contractor in Sacramento doesn’t have a permit to store toxic hazardous waste.  When it was brought to the attention of Sacramento County by KCRA TV, the County responded within two weeks, while 8 months later DTSC still hadn’t responded.  

At the Senate Environmental Quality Committee hearing following the oversight hearing Senator De Leόn presented legislation (SB 812).

“It’s extremely frustrating that people in disadvantaged communities continue to suffer from high levels of pollution from hazardous waste facilities that are allowed by DTSC to continue to operate for years and even decades, even though they have repeatedly violated environmental and public health standards,” said Senator De Leόn.  “It’s time to say stop.  Facilities not in compliance with the law must be shut down.”

Currently, DTSC regulates 117 facilities across the state which require a Tier 1, full permit.  These are the facilities which handle the most serious and dangerous hazardous waste.  Of these facilities, there are 29 operating on expired permits.

SB 812, (De Leόn) addresses the many reforms that are needed with our current hazardous waste regulatory efforts, beginning with addressing expired permits. The bill establishes specific deadlines for when a final permit decision must be made by DTSC.

Each hazardous waste management facility that treats, stores, handles and/or disposes of hazardous waste is required to have a permit or other form of authorization from DTSC.  The permit defines the requirements and restrictions under which the facility may operate.  DTSC has a five tiered permitting system to provide adequate levels of authorization.  Tier 1 permits are for the most serious and dangerous hazardous waste, including those that are regulated under the federal Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and California-only “full” permits for wastes and activities that do not require a permit under the RCRA, but are not eligible for the lower tier permits.

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