San Luis Obispo fined for dumping hazardous waste

July 7, 2014

wasteBy KAREN VELIE

After first denying the dumping of hazardous chemicals violated the law, the city of San Luis Obispo paid an $8,690 penalty in May for the illegal dumping at the city’s corporate yard.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), and other regulatory agencies, started to investigate the deliberate dumping of the chemicals following an exclusive CalCoastNews story on the incident. In Jan. 2011, Bud Nance, a manager with the city’s utilities department, told several subordinates to empty out cans of acetones, varnish, epoxy, paints and creosotes onto the yard’s asphalt parking lot near a wetlands area.

After CalCoastNews broke the story, the city responded by claiming it was only five gallons of paint, that the deliberate dumping was limited to an area covered by asphalt and that the pouring out of paints to dry for disposal is an allowable action.

But, photos and emails make it clear that it was much more than latex paint. One photo shows more than nine legible can labels; only one is latex paint. Other labels show epoxy, rust remover, stain and enamel paint.

The DTSC tested soil samples in the area around the corporate yard a year after the illegal dumping and discovered creosote in the soil, according to an April 22 consent order.

Following the illicit dumping, city and county officials tried to keep mum about the spill. A string of emails show some San Luis Obispo city employees attempting to downplay or hide the problem.

Two weeks after the chemicals were poured out on the ground, city management asked San Luis Obispo Fire Department Hazardous Materials Coordinator Kerry Boyle, who also works with the county’s environmental health department, to inspect the site. Information from employees and dates on photos show the chemicals had been soaking into the ground for about two weeks before the city called the inspector.

Boyle determined the release did not “meet a reporting threshold,” said Aaron LaBarre, supervising environmental health specialist for San Luis Obispo County Environmental Health Services.

Boyle then supervised the cleanup, which should have required the removal of the chemicals by trained hazardous waste workers who should have disposed it as hazardous waste with proper manifesting. Instead, industrial kitty litter was poured on the spill and then the chemicals were trucked to the household dump area at Cold Canyon, in violation of the law, according to emails between the DTSC and Boyle.

In an odd twist, the DTSC would have the county’s health services and inspector Boyle take over the investigation. In Feb. 2012, Boyle slapped the city with a notice of violation, Boyle then claimed city staff violated 16 laws regarding the city’s dumping, disposal and supervision of hazardous chemicals.

In the end, the city and county agreed that the city would pay a fine and the county would drop all but two of the violations. Because of the agreement, the fine amount was kept under $10,000 and as such San Luis Obispo City Manager Katie Lichtig was able to pay the fine without informing the public or the city council of the agreement or the fine.


17 Comments

  1. What would the fine be for a private citizen who did the same thing as the City of San Luis Obispo did in this instance ? I bet a heck of a lot more and perhaps some jail time as well ?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. kayaknut says:

    Well if Measure Y passes we know where the first $8960 of it will go to replace funds, the remainder will go to Christine Dietrick’s next raise as well as Katie Lichtig’s raise, but I’m sure they will come up will a cooler name for it, instead of raise it might just be administrative time off, unless Atascadero has the rights to that name, since they used it first. The remainder of Measure Y will go to benefits and pensions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 3

    • kayaknut says:

      Oops, $8,690…..

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

    • falconbh says:

      CalPERS Update- Cities are going to have to pay higher contribution rates every year for the next 20 Years according to a recent vote by the Cal PERS Board. This is needed because of the Unfunded Liabilities.

      We just cannot afford to continue down this path of Excessive Salaries, Early 90% Retirements, and Costly Health Benefit Packages.

      The only way to start bringing things under control is to Vote NO on these New Sales Tax Entitlements in November.[Pismo Beach & Atascadero]

      How many more ” temporary” Tax Increases Can YOU Afford ?

      New Sales Tax Increases
      School Luxury Tax
      Water Rate Tax
      Sanitation Tax
      CalPERS Tax and Bailout
      Cuesta College Tax
      Property Tax Increases [= Rental Increase]

      November-Register-Vote-Inform- Change

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

      • falconbh says:

        Flint Michigan Bankruptcy- Looks like we have another city heading into bankruptcy
        because of pensions and benefits. How many Tax and Rate Increases can you afford before You will be forced to move ?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  3. wineguyjc says:

    Say it isn’t so, Boyle lied, Nance committed a felony on City time and on City Property! Say it isn’t so, that Dietrick and Lichtig lied and down played the issue! Boyle lies and he is still a fireman, still a hazardous materials coordinator / inspector for the City. No different than knock out Mason, and dope dealing Pierce. Oh, gotta trust these guys. Maybe they should have put the stuff in some of the equipment that Faria character misappropriated for personal gain. Oh that is right, faria is a union boss, so taking a little extra on the side is nothing because he is entitled to it. S”o during labor negotiations what does Faria ask for – Katie look the other way, I need some extra surplus equipment to get a little on the side. Okay Ronnie, just let me know when, so I can craft up a good story with Dietrick

    So, should we vote yes for Measure Y or no based upon the actions of Nance, Boyle and Faria – three stellar examples of government employees?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 53 Thumb down 8

  4. MAD HATTER says:

    So what happened to Bud Nance in all of this? Another promotion?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 33 Thumb down 5

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