A community-based environmental justice group that helped turn several McClymonds High School students into budding environmental activists has sued a West Oakland metal recycling company, saying it violated water pollution laws.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court Thursday by Global Community Monitor Inc. against Custom Alloy Scrap Sales Inc. The longtime company on Peralta Street recycles aluminum, steel and copper in a neighborhood where many residents don't want it.
The lawsuit states that the company fails to contain dust and particles from its smelting and recycling operations, which then allows amounts of aluminum, lead, zinc, copper, nickel, iron, oil and grease in excess of water quality standards to be flushed down storm drains in runoff that leads to the Bay.
Denny Larson, a community activist and executive director of the environmental group that filed the court action, said the discharge data detailed in the lawsuit was obtained from monthly storm water test samples submitted by the recycling company to the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Larson said the suit was filed on behalf of the community because water regulators failed to take enforcement action. Representatives from the Regional Water Quality Control Board did not respond to a phone call about the reported violations.
Custom Alloy is in compliance with regional air quality regulations.
Larson's group gave Custom Alloy 60 days to respond before filing the court action this week, during which time the company hired an environmental consultant to review the discharge data to determine if there was in fact a problem. But Larson said the company wasn't moving fast enough to agree to a community-based monitoring program.
"This (lawsuit) was the most readily available (tool) available to us to get the company to do something about this," Larson said.
Edward Kangeter, Custom Alloy CEO, said he was blindsided by the lawsuit. When Global Community Monitor contacted the company a month or two ago, Kangeter said he responded by hiring an environmental expert to analyze the discharge data to determine whether there were problems and, if so, how to address them.
"Our intention is to work with the local community and appropriate state and federal regulatory organizations to address any concerns," Kangeter said. "We've hired storm water consultants to look at our entire operation. We're committed to running a responsible company."
Kangeter said he is trying to get approval to move his recycling operation on Peralta Street to land adjacent to the East Bay Municipal Utility District's wastewater treatment plant.
The area, known as the North Gateway portion of the former Oakland Army Base, until last year was set aside for a new auto mall, but that plan fell through.
City officials, citing the value recyclers provide in diverting huge amounts of waste that otherwise would go to landfills, are interested in the North Gateway to relocate companies such as Custom Alloy from neighborhoods that are becoming increasingly residential.
Kangeter said the new location would allow him to construct a new facility that is covered and better-suited to its industrial use.
Reach Cecily Burt at 510-208-6441. Check out her blog at www.ibabuzz.com/westside.