U.S. EPA Orders World’s Largest Metals & Electronics Recycler to Immediately Cease Illegal Discharge of Toxic Pollutants to San Francisco Bay

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered Sims Metal Management, located at the Port of Redwood City, Calif., to comply with federal Clean Water Act laws following inspections that found evidence of unlawful discharges of PCBs, mercury, lead, copper and zinc into San Francisco Bay. The South Bay facility is home to one of the largest metal shredders in the Bay Area, and regularly shreds entire cars before exporting the metal overseas.   

“The EPA is committed to protecting the Bay by ensuring compliance with environmental permits,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Companies such as Sims Metal Management, engaged in recycling our finite resources, must abide by the Clean Water Act.”

Sims Metal claims to be the world’s largest metals and electronics recycler. According to records provided by the Port of Redwood City, from July 2010 to June 2011, 20 large vessels, picked up and transported an average of 22,000 tons of shredded material from the facility bound for global destinations including China. The largest transport during the specified time period was 35,000 tons of shredded material.

In March 2011, EPA inspected the facility to determine compliance with their Industrial Storm Water Permit. During the inspection, enforcement officers found evidence at the facility’s shipping and rail receiving areas that pollutants have been discharged to Redwood Creek, a direct tributary to San Francisco Bay. In August 2011, EPA again inspected the facility and took samples of debris and soils in the areas that flow to San Francisco Bay, where the facility conducts shipping and receiving activities. The results of the samples demonstrated elevated PCBs, mercury, lead, copper and zinc.

Sims Metal Management acknowledged received of the U.S. EPA Order on December 21, 2011. The order requires Sims to submit a revised storm water pollution prevention plan and to update monitoring and sampling within 30 days of the order; and to develop and implement storm water pollution counter measures. EPA’s order also requires Sims Metal Management to develop and submit a plan within 90 days to eliminate these discharges to Redwood Creek within one year. The company must: sample storm water discharges monthly throughout the winter and spring; revise their storm water pollution prevention plan to update monitoring and sampling; and develop and implement storm water pollution counter measures for all areas of activity. Sims is working cooperatively with the EPA to address requirements of the order.

Redwood Creek flows between the Port of Redwood City and the Don Edwards National Wildlife refuge and is a tributary to San Francisco Bay. San Francisco Bay is an impaired water body and is listed on the State’s 303(d) list of impaired waters for pesticides, mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and trash. The Bay is also used by recreational boaters, anglers, windsurfers and swimmers.

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