Oakland A’s Lawsuit Over Toxic Waste Survives

The ruling coming just days after the state ordered a scrap metal facility to clean up the site near where the A’s plan to build their new stadium.

The Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, site of what the Oakland A’s baseball team hopes will be its new stadium. (Courthouse News photo / Nick Cahill)

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — An Alameda County judge ruled Thursday that California’s toxic substances regulator must face claims it failed to curb pollution at a mega scrap metal shredding plant near the site of a new Oakland A’s stadium.

The facility at 1101 Embarcadero West where old cars and appliances are turned into scrap is run by Schnitzer Steel, a multinational company currently fighting with the A’s over plans to build a 34,000-seat stadium, 3,000 new residences, restaurants and a hotel on land currently used for maritime and trucking purposes. 

The team sued the California Department of Toxic Substances Control this past August for failing to rein in toxic emissions from the plant in violation of the state’s Hazardous Waste Control Law and Senate Bill 1249, which requires the department to regulate the facility and ensure that it properly disposes of shredder waste more thoroughly.

The legislation was prompted by a DTSC study that found shredder residue contains toxic levels of lead, zinc and cadmium.

Since the 1980s, the A’s petition claims, Schnizter and other metal shredders have been exempted from having to dispose of this metal residue as hazardous waste by receiving a classification as nonhazardous waste under subdivision (f) of Title 22 of California’s code of regulations.

SB 1249 was supposed to rescind the historical “f letter” exemption by Jan. 1, 2018, but it remains in place to this day. And Schnitzer continues to store residue in uncovered outdoor piles that leach into the soil and groundwater, according to the petition.

Alameda Superior Court Judge Paul Herbert refused to toss the action in a brief tentative ruling Thursday.

He found the state’s health and safety code required it to rescind the “f letter” exemption by the January 2018 deadline.

He also denied the team’s request to order the department to rescind the “f letter” exemption. But he did so without prejudice, allowing the team to renew the motion “once an adequate factual record has been developed concerning what affirmative actions, if any, DTSC pursued to effectuate the legislature’s intent in enacting SB1249.”

Herbert’s ruling comes just days after the department formally ordered Schnitzer Steel to stop polluting and clean up contamination in the neighboring community of West Oakland.

This month, Schnizter — a real party in interest to the A’s petition — also agreed to remove toxic bits of shredded carpet and other hazardous materials from the area under a settlement with the state and Alameda County.

The department declined comment, citing pending litigation. William Sloan with Venable LLP and R. James Slaughter with Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP represent the A’s. Neither returned phone calls seeking comment Thursday.

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