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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bay Area Recyclers Spew Toxins, Enviros Say

Posted By and on Tue, Sep 21, 2010 at 5:59 PM

Automobile recycling, billed as a "green" industry, is actually a poorly regulated polluter that produces dangerous toxic waste, according to a new report by an East Bay environmental group.

"It's not as bad as third-world computer scrapping, but it's close," said Denny Larson, who runs a nonprofit called Global Community Monitor out of El Cerrito. "Chances are that in the processing of metals for recycling all kinds of toxins can be released."

Larson has produced a study monitoring air pollution from East Bay scrapyards, including Custom Alloy Scrap Sales in West Oakland. Larson claims that tests have:

"Confirmed the presence of various heavy metals,

including arsenic and cadmium, in the air near Custom Alloy Scrap Sales,

a West Oakland scrapper. Also, samples detected Freon and toxic gases

associated with waste oil near the facility."


Custom Alloy CEO Edward Kangeter said he has spent the past

year struggling to respond to complaints from Larson's group, worked

closely with government regulators to reduce emissions, and took measures such as ordering trucks lined up outside his facility to reduce

their idling time.

"I have not read

the entire report, but I will tell you this: Ask them, 'how does a facility like ours

compare to a mobile source like the Bay Bridge?'" Kangeter said. "The air board has been in my facility 90-plus times because

of Global Community Monitor. And we've never been cited one time. We take air

quality, and the health of the environement, very seriously at this company."

Kangeter urged us to contact Phil Martien, an official with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, with whom Custom Alloy Scrap Sales has been working closely to respond to neighborhood concerns about emissions. Martien had not returned a call requesting comment by press time. We'll add his input to this story when he does.

"To give you an idea of how seriously we've taken this issue, we've listened to, and tried to respond to every reasonable request the community has had," Kangeter said. "We've changed the way we book appointments from the trucking companies, and we pass out information to all the truck drivers to limit idle time to five minutes or less."

The issue of potential toxic emissions emanating from metals recycling facilities is not a new story.

A year ago SF Weekly reported how sensors at the Port of Los Angeles at Long Beach had

detected clouds of dust containing contaminants such as lead settling

over houses, a fire station, a playground, and a community center

downwind from a so-called automobile shredder, which grinds up old cars for scrap.

The Southern California facility is similar to ones at

Redwood City and Oakland. Like the L.A. facility, shredders at the Port of

Oakland and in Redwood city sit next to neighborhoods potentially

exposed to airborne toxic waste. But those massive shredding plants are different from Kangeter's aluminum foundry operation. And the report by Larson's group doesn't seem to provide precise evidence of health dangers purportedly posed by the Oakland aluminum recycling operation.

In his report, Larson said that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District "has not specifically regulated scrap metal recyclers. Due to community uproar and fence-line air monitoring data, the BAAQMD is currently drafting a new rule to fill this regulatory loophole."

However, Larson's report does not, at least in the form it's been released to the public, seem to specify precisely what contaminants are being released; in what quantities; or over which areas. Rather, the report generalizes about the dangers of poisoning from heavy metals, particulate pollution, and volatile organic chemicals, while noting that the Bay Area hosts many facilities that in one way or another are involved in the process of metals recycling.

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