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A Pittsburg steel plant will pay $825,000 for mismanaging hazardous waste and illegally storing lead dust in a dilapidated building, which resulted in the release of harmful materials outside the building, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control said.
The fine, approved in December and announced this month, penalizes USS-POSCO Industries (UPI), a joint venture company of U.S. Steel and the Korean steelmaker POSCO which produces cold-rolled steel sheet, galvanized steel and tin mill products used in manufacturing motor vehicles, home appliances and other goods. The Pittsburg plant employs about 700 people.
The state agency claims the company allowed lead- and zinc-contaminated dust and debris to accumulate in a run-down storage area and to be dispersed by wind and rain into the environment. The company also failed to use waste containers, labels, inspections, and other forms of proper waste management, state officials said.
The state’s inspection in 2017 apparently uncovered a run-down, walled-off portion of the building where lead- and zinc-contaminated dust and debris collected on the floor and were dispersed through the air and into the outdoors. Inside, state inspectors noted broken windows, open ceilings, and bird feathers and droppings, state officials said. DTSC took samples from the soil immediately surrounding the building that apparently showed hazardous levels of lead and zinc, indicating that contaminated dust from the building entered the environment.
“We are deeply concerned that UPI knowingly mismanaged hazardous waste and failed to prevent its release into the environment,” Meredith Williams, director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, said in a statement. “UPI compounded the dangers to its staff, the public and the environment each day it put off compliance with hazardous waste management requirements. This settlement makes clear that ignoring environmental laws carries heavy consequences.”
The company did not immediately return a request for a comment.
The Department of Toxic Substances Control asserts that the managers of the steel plant instructed their employees to wear protective equipment prior to entering the contaminated area of the building, indicating that the company was aware of the unsafe conditions and the dangers they posed to public health and the environment.
A follow-up inspection by DTSC in early 2018 found that UPI was allegedly using tanks formerly used for acid wash baths to illegally store liquid and solid hazardous waste.
As part of the settlement, UPI agreed to perform corrective action to stop the alleged hazardous waste releases at its facility, including the lead and zinc-contaminated dust and soil.
The complaint against UPI and settlement documents were filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court by the California Attorney General’s Office on behalf of the state agency.
The court approved the settlement on Dec. 12.