SLO cited for dumping hazardous waste

June 6, 2012

Chemicals seeped from cans to a strip of wood separating the asphalt from the soil. Picture taken one week after discharge.

UPDATE: San Luis Obispo city attorney Christine Dietrick said in an email Wednesday afternoon that the San Luis Obispo fire department which lodged the notice of violation against the city is a CUPA participating agency overseen by San Luis Obispo County Environmental Health.

Original story:

By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo city fire department officials have lodged a notice of violation against the city’s public works department for the illegal dumping and disposal of hazardous wastes.

In the February 17 notice of violation, Fire Department Hazardous Materials Coordinator Kerry Boyle claims city staff violated 16 laws regarding the city’s dumping, disposal and supervision of hazardous chemicals.

In citing the city, Boyle reversed his earlier claims that the purposeful dumping of dozens of gallons of chemicals including acetones (solvents), varnish, epoxy, creosote, enamel paint and latex paints onto the ground not far from a waterway did not require reporting to other agencies or citations.

In January 2011, waste water collections supervisor Bud Nance told staffers to remove the contents of the hazardous waste storage shed at the city corporation yard on Prado Road and empty cans in the yard. After about two weeks, the chemical dump was reported to Boyle who inspected the site.

At the time, Boyle concluded that the city was not required to follow laws regarding the disposal of hazardous materials. Instead, he allowed city staff to pour kitty litter onto the chemicals and then transport the waste to the Cold Canyon Landfill for disposal.

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. At that time it was determined there was no need to file a notice of violation.

However, dozens of emails between city managers and staff note that the dumping created a hazardous situation and needed to be correctly reported and cleaned up. The emails show some San Luis Obispo city employees attempting to downplay or hide the problem.

Following an exclusive CalCoastNews story on the incident, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent investigators to the Central Coast to look into the deliberate dumping of the chemicals. And while city officials say they have been warned the city and some staff face civil and criminal penalties, no arrests have yet been made and no fines have been levied.

On February 17, a few months after the EPA and DTSC started their investigations and more than a year after the toxic release, Boyle sent the city the notice of violation. The citation asks the city to agree to develop a work plan to assess the level of contamination and to make changes in its policies and procedures to avoid further incidents.

Under the California Public Records Act, CalCoastNews sent a request for a copy of the notice of violation to LaBarre. It took almost three weeks, a violation of the act, before officials released the public document to CalCoastNews.

On March 16, San Luis Obispo city attorney Christine Dietrick wrote Boyle a response that says the city objects to the notice of violation. She notes that the city is also already facing criminal and civil penalties from other agencies and should not have to respond to allegations from a lesser agency.

“The city has been advised that the city and/or its employees could face civil and criminal penalties if certain allegations are found to be true,” Dietrick says in her response. “Facing concurrent actions for the same alleged conduct from both inferior and superior agencies places the city and its employes in a difficult legal and procedural position and prejudices the city’s ability to fully and fairly respond to the allegations against it.”

Nevertheless, Dietrick provided rebuttals to the majority of issues raised by Boyle. In her response, she argues that the cost of assessing the contamination far outweighs the benefit to public health. She calls the request unreasonable.

In response to allegations the city broke the law when it illegally disposed of the hazardous waste-soaked kitty litter at the Cold Canyon Landfill, Dietrick argued that the notice of violation did not provide basic information she needed to respond to the allegations. Even so, she wrote that the city is currently reviewing policies and procedures as to operate legally in the future.

The notice of violation also accuses the city of failing to legally label chemicals, separate incompatible wastes, adequately train personnel, and to properly maintain and operate the corporate yard to minimize the possibilities of fires, explosions and the unplanned release of hazardous materials.

Workers poured out a gallon of creosote in the corporate yard. Two weeks after the illegal discharge, workers poured cat litter on top of the chemicals.

Empty cans left strewn in the corporate yard.


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prbizownr

Dietrick: “argues that the cost of assessing the contamination far outweighs the benefit to public health. She calls the request unreasonable.”


The city has the environmental/chemical engineering credentials to determine the effects and extent of the contamination? What is wrong with these people! It is that kind of attitude that leads to Superfund sites.


paragon

Why has this walking train wreck known has Bud Nance not been fired by the city? Are they waiting for him to dump cyanide down the drain?


cheseburger

This was a rehersal for building the sewer in LOS OSOS. a trial run, if this is how slo county does


this, this is how slo county will do that!


danika

So we actively cite those who are down and out and living in their vehicles but need give a pass to city officials who deliberately give the finger to environmental laws by violating the law in 16 different ways?

Seriously?


danika

Correction: city official should be Public Works.


The Gimlet Eye

Well said, danika. No city ever saw a double standard that it didn’t like.


dante0182

This is especially true of the SLO City officials, from many of the employees to the planning commissioners. Self-righteous and living in ivory towers. How many of the SLO officials, including planning commissioners, have ever worked for private entities or owned their own business? It is easy to dictate to others when one has an automatic paycheck, regardless of performance.


SuperDave

Jerry Brown wants environmental laws suspended for the ridiclous Bullet Train project, SLO City employees dump anything, anywhere they please, then try to hide it. Are you really amazed? “Do as we say, and absolutely not as we do!” Good for someone stepping up to address this four month old problem! Now, about Adam Hill…


dante0182

Someone needs to look into these topics: City officials, including appointed officials, using their positions to gain contracts for their friends, family? SLO City appointed officials being hired by the City of SLO to do work?


slo Fact Finder

Some City of San Luis Obispo staff have become so arrogant that they often feel they are above the law that other private citizens can be cited and/or fined by other city employees such is now the case for the

city’s “proactively enforced” Neighborhood Wellness Inspectors or the fire departments’ multi-family residential inspectors, or the police department’s noise enforcement staff, or the more friendly city building departments’ code enforcement staff.


You get the picture by now that the City of San Luis Obispo has become rather punitive in enforcing its extensive codes. But what about the local citizens who continue to do the right thing and lead by example RATHER than some disgruntled city public works employees who wish to get back at their managers for whatever. Perhaps the City of San Luis Obispo should reward local residents, landowners and business owners who continue to do the right things day-in and day-out.

Perhaps “local citizen and business owners of the week awards” are now in order in “happy Town”.


dante0182

Oh I don’t know slo Fact Finder, SLO (city and county) can be very proactive in rewarding certain individuals, such as appointed officials and their friends and family.


MaryMalone

NEPOTISM: A game the whole family can play.


SLOBIRD

It is amazing how there seems to be two standards for things: Government violates the hazardpus waste disposal process and it takes the gathering of the City “manages” to determine no violation occurred and then it is only when other agencies intervene that the City Attorney does no want to respond to their own haz mat staff who claim they did violate. BUT, if any one of us would have done that and we were noticed, we would be cited, handcuffed, jailed, fined and hang for doing this, and we would not be able to use the defense that Ms. Dietrick seems to claim. And Mr. Nance, Wastewater manger, ordered this stuff dumped and goes around teaching the public to not put one pill down our drains because of the damage. I’m sure he’s still there, probably promoted, and certainly no discipline because they can’t even determine if a crime has been committed by their staff in their back yard. Oh yea, Katie gone again – down at her home in Mailbu probably with Jan Marx as a house guest!!


oldradiostuff

Perhaps the city’s attorney should educate herself on California law:


http://law.onecle.com/california/health/25189.5.html


California Health and Safety Code Section 25189.5


(a) The disposal of any hazardous waste, or the causing

thereof, is prohibited when the disposal is at a facility which does

not have a permit from the department issued pursuant to this

chapter, or at any point which is not authorized according to this

chapter.


The material was a hazardous waste. The City corp yard is not permitted as a hazardous waste disposal facility. Pretty clear violation there.


As the world turns

Where did they find this person to be city attorney? How much does she get paid WITH benefits?


fivecitiesbeat

Which, consequently, is the same Safety Code section that the local enforcement used to evict Occupy SLO members from the courthouse lawns. Citing them for disposing of water on the lawn! Meanwhile, back at the ranch the city was dumping God knows what in our water??!


MaryMalone

Thank you, Karen, et al., for pushing this issue. If it wasn’t for CCN’s willingness to take action and inform the people, Public Works would have have likely not been held accountable.


dante0182

Yes, thank you Karen. Now please look into the public officials, including appointed officials, and their SLO city contracts, relationships (including spouses) with the county planning department, local consulting firm(s) that get repeat contracts from the city and county, and connections to cal poly.


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