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29th April 2022
EDITORS NOTE: This article is from California, February, 2021. It appears that Schnitzer Steel is not a good neighbour in the USA either

Schnitzer Steel agrees to pay $4.1 million settlement for allegedly polluting West Oakland neighborhood

Accused of violating environmental laws!!

By ANNIE SCIACCA Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: February 3, 2021 at 2:34 p.m. UPDATED: February 4, 2021 at 3:03 p.m.

OAKLAND — Schnitzer Steel will pay $4.1 million to settle prosecutors’ allegations that its metal shredding facility spewed toxic emissions over the West Oakland neighborhood around it.

The settlement was announced Wednesday by a prosecution team that includes the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the state Attorney General’s Office and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

Following a years-long investigation, they concluded that Schnitzer Steel’s plant, which shreds and sorts metal materials sold for reuse in steel mills, violated California’s environmental laws by releasing particles of hazardous metals, including lead, cadmium and zinc, into the air.

“Communities in West Oakland already experience a disproportionate share of environmental pollution and some of the highest asthma rates in the state,” state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a written statement. “So we won’t sit back while corporate polluters make the situation worse by dispersing their toxic waste into these neighborhoods and surrounding waters.”

Under the settlement, Schnitzer must inspect the half-mile area around its facility for byproducts from its operations and dispose of them as hazardous waste, install air pollution control equipment to reduce the toxic pollutants it emits, prevent metal shreds from getting into storm drains or other waterway entry points, issue warnings — required under Proposition 65 — to people living or working near the facility that they are exposed to hazardous chemicals, and maintain its equipment properly.

Of the $4.1 million settlement amount, Schnitzer must pay $1.55 million in civil penalties, $2.1 million for supplemental environmental projects that benefit West Oakland communities and $450,000 to reimburse the prosecution’s investigative and enforcement costs, according to information from Becerra’s office.

“It’s a big deal and a big settlement. This is a company that has operated in 19th-century fashion for years,” said Brian Beveridge, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, a community-based environmental justice organization that has been advocating for residents for years.

In a written statement, Schnitzer Steel representatives disputed the attorney general’s claims that its facility emits “harmful levels” of toxic contaminants into the air but said it “worked cooperatively with state and local officials to address their concerns and settle this matter.”

According to the state attorney general, the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project will get more than $673,000 from the settlement to install air filtration systems and HVAC upgrades at the West Oakland Senior Center, the West Oakland Library and the DeFremery Park Recreation Center.

About $688,000 will go toward installing air filtration systems at the Marcus Garvey, Slim Jenkins and St. Mary’s Center affordable housing sites in West Oakland.

An additional $480,000 will be used to design and install more air quality monitoring infrastructure in West Oakland and $94,000 will go to community nonprofit Prescott-Joseph Center for its mobile pediatric asthma clinic.

The goal of all those efforts is to significantly reduce the amount of particulate matter that gets inside the centers. Beveridge said his team wants to also secure funding for solar panels at the senior center to offset the cost of running the HVAC and air filtration systems.

Margaret Gordon, co-director of the West Oakland Indicators Project, and Beveridge question how effective the settlement will be in cleaning up the mess Schnitzer caused.

Gordon, a 30-year West Oakland resident, said Schnitzer Steel’s pollution has been a problem since even before she lived there.

Although Schnitzer was required to notify residents of the harmful chemicals it emits, it has not done so, Gordon said. “They have never knocked on a door. We have never had an email.”

Regulatory enforcement to make that happen now is critical, Gordon said.

Others have accused the Department of Toxic Substances Control of not holding Schnitzer accountable. Last year, the Oakland Athletics filed a lawsuit accusing the state environmental agency of a “failure to impose and enforce environmental law” against Schnitzer, which operates near the Howard Terminal site that the A’s want to develop into a ballpark. The company has opposed the ballpark proposal.

That team’s lawsuit says multiple fires involving hazardous materials at Schnitzer’s Oakland facility have broken out in the past two years.
Becerra’s office later filed a motion to dismiss the A’s lawsuit against Schnitzer, saying it’s without merit.

Multiple research studies show that West Oakland has the highest levels of diesel particulate matter in the Bay Area and that residents of neighborhoods near the Port of Oakland are at greater risk of getting cancer from air pollution than all other neighborhoods in the city.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has partnered with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and a community-based steering committee to develop a plan for reducing pollution in West Oakland.

Last fall, the air district secured an agreement from Schnitzer to install equipment to reduce emissions by the end of 2022 and pay a $500,000 fine.