Curbing Pollution from an Oakland Auto Shredder

Apr 16, 2013
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For the second time this year, thanks to Baykeeper’s advocacy, a polluting metal and vehicle recycler on the Oakland Estuary has been told it is still not doing enough to keep toxic dust out of San Francisco Bay—and that it must do better.

Schnitzer Steel has long been one of the Bay’s worst industrial runoff polluters. As a result of recommendations Baykeeper made last year, the Regional Water Board strengthened its order for Schnitzer to reduce pollution. The Board added a requirement to keep airborne dust containing toxic waste from blowing and washing into San Francisco Bay.

Responding to the Regional Board’s order, Schnitzer turned in vague and inadequate pollution prevention plans. Baykeeper’s in-house experts and an outside consultant documented the weakness and ineffectiveness of Schnitzer’s pollution prevention efforts. We urged the Board to require Schnitzer to replace its vague plans with clear, objective measures of pollution and specific prevention practices. The Board is following our recommendations. Now, Schnitzer must better document its pollution sources and be more specific about its pollution prevention practices on site.

Schnitzer Steel Oakland processes, shreds, and ships out tens of thousands of tons of scrap metal from automobiles and other sources every year. A recent study of a similar facility found that dust falling onto nearby and downwind areas contained lead, copper, iron, zinc, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic, among many other pollutants. Cleaning up Schnitzer’s pollution is an important step to improving the health of the Oakland Inner Harbor, which is seriously impaired by industrial contamination.

We are heartened to see the Regional Board take a strong stand on Schnitzer Steel’s contamination of the Bay. However, because Schnitzer has repeatedly shown disregard for pollution control, Baykeeper will continue to work aggressively to curb pollution from this site.

Baykeeper’s advocacy for a clampdown on pollution from Schnitzer Steel is part of our Bay-Safe Industry campaign. The campaign targets widespread, illegal runoff that flows into San Francisco Bay from most of the Bay Area’s 1,300 industrial facilities. In addition to advocacy for better regulatory control of Schnitzer and other facilities found to be significantly polluting the Bay, the campaign includes legal action against major industrial polluters, outreach and education to industrial facilities, and advocacy to strengthen controls on industrial storm water.

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