Partnering With e-Recycling of California to Cut Pollution to the Bay

Jan 25, 2013

A Hayward recycler of TVs, computers, and other electronics has volunteered to test its storm water runoff to see if it is polluting San Francisco Bay, and to reduce any pollution found.

The company, e-Recycling of California, responded to Baykeeper’s suggestions for pollution controls by proposing a new effort to improve their environmental stewardship, even though most of the contamination entering the Bay from the company’s site was from a recently-closed facility next door.

e-Recycling breaks down used electronic equipment and passes the materials on for further processing and eventual re-use. Materials processed at the facility that end up in new products include copper from circuit boards, other metals, glass from cathode ray tubes, and plastics from equipment cases and parts.

Baykeeper sent a notice of violations to e-Recycling after we obtained and tested samples of storm water runoff last spring from a driveway shared between the company and Strategic Materials, Inc., a neighboring recycler of food and beverage containers. These tests revealed high levels of pollutants, including aluminum, copper, iron, lead, and zinc.

In addition, a follow-up investigation by Baykeeper uncovered abundant sources of pollution, including trash and other materials stored outdoors. These materials were exposed to rainfall, allowing pollutants to enter storm water, which flows off-site and into nearby storm drains that empty into the Bay.

As Baykeeper continued our investigation, we learned that most of the pollution was coming from Strategic Materials and other neighboring businesses that had failed to register as required with the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board. However, we discovered that Strategic Materials was already planning to move outside the Bay Area. It has now cleaned up its site and relocated, and is no longer a threat to the Bay’s water quality. Baykeeper will now work with the Regional Water Board to clean up the other neighboring businesses.

Meanwhile, Baykeeper met with e-Recycling to discuss its potential pollution sources and suggest areas for improvement. e-Recycling volunteered to start testing its storm water for various toxic metals that are likely to be found in electronic waste. If high levels of these metals are detected, e-Recycling has agreed to mechanically sweep the exterior paved surfaces on a daily basis and implement other changes necessary to reduce pollution.

Runoff from electronics recyclers is likely to contain additional toxic substances such as epoxy resins, fiberglass, PCBs, PVC (polyvinyl chlorides), thermosetting plastics, mercury, and thallium. If these substances are running off from e-Recycling’s site and into the Bay, the company’s cleanup measures should also reduce this pollution.

Baykeeper will continue to monitor the results of e-Recycling’s tests of its storm water runoff to make sure its pollutant levels are below legal limits.

This agreement with e-Recycling is a recent success for Baykeeper’s Bay-Safe Industry campaign. The campaign’s goal is to rein in widespread, illegal runoff that flows into San Francisco Bay from most of the Bay Area’s 1,300 industrial facilities. In addition to partnering for cleanup with e-Recyling and other industrial facilities found to pollute the Bay, the campaign includes legal action against significant industrial polluters, outreach and education to industrial facilities, and advocacy to strengthen controls on industrial storm water.

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