A metal recycling facility in South Fresno must fix damage it caused through illegal disposal of hazardous waste, following an order from the California Department of Toxic Substance Control.

The DTSC ordered Schnitzer Steel, an Oregon-based company, to “identify all sources and extent of contamination and evaluate if there is a risk to human health and the environment,” and create a plan to clean up any hazardous waste, according to a news release.

The recycling company located at 2727 S. Chestnut Ave. is about 500 feet from the nearest residential homes.

The area in which the facility is located is one of the most heavily polluted ZIP codes in the state of California, according to Cal EnviroScreen, and the neighborhood is riddled with brownfields and layers of pollution.

The site is listed as an “active brownfield,” meaning there is or could be hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants in the area, according to the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act.

Violations throughout the years

Throughout the years, Schnitzer Steel has violated several hazardous waste regulations, the DTSC said.

According to the release, records of large amounts of hazardous waste at the location date back to 1994.

In November 2013, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Fresno County Department of Public Health found lead that exceeds the regulatory threshold in dust, debris and soil samples during an inspection.

The most recent complaint from the DTSC was filed in May 2020 and stated that Schnitzer Steel was unlawfully storing, treating or causing the disposal of hazardous waste. There were other allegations related to the facility’s improper disposal of hazardous waste.

“DTSC seeks injunctive relief against, and civil penalties from, Schnitzer Fresno for violations of the (Hazardous Waste Control Law) pursuant to Health and Safety Code,” the complaint read.

According to an email from Dianna Vasquez Ballesteros, deputy director of Legislative Affairs, the DTSC complaint was filed as a result of evidence that the facility improperly disposed of soil-contaminating lead and other metals without a hazardous waste permit and for failure to manage waste.

Issued on March 18, the DTSC order was meant to help identify issues as well as create a plan for cleanup of the waste, according to the release.

“The order 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 human health and the environment.”

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