State regulators file civil lawsuit against Watts-area metals recycler

SACRAMENTO – The state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is going to court to hold recycling company S&W Atlas Iron & Metal Co., Inc. in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles liable for violations of California’s waste laws dangerous, and to request that a judge impose penalties for prior violations.

DTSC filed the complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court in connection with alleged violations identified by inspectors in July and October 2020. This civil complaint asks a judge to order Atlas to follow hazardous waste laws. The complaint is in addition to that of the DTSC order to Atlas to investigate and clean up any contamination on site and to prevent any future release of hazardous waste.

“It is imperative that Atlas operates safely due to its proximity to Jordan High School, Southeast Middle School and the 700-unit Jordan Downs public housing project,” said DTSC Director Meredith Williams. “We will use every tool at our disposal to protect students and the community from this facility and ensure that Atlas is held accountable.”

Atlas sorts scrap metal by type and some, such as air conditioners, washing machines and microwaves, ends up in a 15-18 foot unenclosed pile. Employees then sort through this unenclosed pile with heavy machinery to separate the devices from scrap metal, tires and assorted dirt and debris, then place the various items into wheeled bins and other containers.

According to company manifestos, the facility generates a variety of hazardous wastes, including waste oil and lead waste.

In July 2020, DTSC inspectors responded to a complaint that the unenclosed pile was expanding. Upon inspection, the DTSC found and documented the alleged violations contained in the complaint. The alleged violations were also identified during a follow-up inspection three months later.

Alleged violations included unauthorized storage of hazardous waste, incorrect labeling of bins containing hazardous waste, and the lack of emergency preparedness procedures and other measures in place that reduce the risk of release of substances dangerous.

Although Atlas has corrected the 2020 violations, the DTSC has the authority to seek civil penalties for past violations and seek injunctive relief to deter future violations, protect the environment, and protect student health and safety, nearby residents and others.

Source: press release