State Department of toxic Substances Control Must Send “Strong Message” to Evergreen Oil Re-Refiner Over Repeated Safety Lapses, Accidents
Consumer Watchdog called on the Director of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Debbie Raphael, to indefinitely close the Evergreen Oil waste-oil re-refinery in Newark, Ca. in a letter sent today. On July 6, a pipe leak spewed “superheated oil” and triggered an emergency evacuation of the facility. The company and Newark police warned the surrounding community, including a nearby elementary school, to expect a wave of “strong odors” from the leak.
Consumer Watchdog cited repeated problems at the facility as an example of DTSC’s failure to take tough action against toxic industries that continue to operate after repeated safety violations near homes and schools in testimony and a letter presented at Debbie Raphael’s State Senate confirmation hearings in April.
The confirmation letter said several companies, including Evergreen, “appear to have manipulated or ignored the DTSC and other agencies to the detriment of concerned and frustrated local residents.”
The accident marks the latest in a string of problems at the plant that re-refines used motor oil, including a burst pipe and major fire in March 2011 and repeated citations by the DTSC for safety violations and carelessness.
“Consumer Watchdog is appalled to learn of yet another accident at the Newark-based used oil recycler Evergreen Oil,” said Liza Tucker, an advocate at Consumer Watchdog. “We call on the DTSC to shut this refinery down indefinitely. Evergreen needs to know that sloppy safety procedures, and refusal to fix or replace shoddy infrastructure, is simply unacceptable.”
The DTSC has let the company off the hook with consent decrees and hand-slap fines for at least a dozen years, said Consumer Watchdog. The group called for the new leadership at the DTSC to send toxic industries a strong message that there is a new sheriff in town who won’t allow careless endangerment.
The letter sent today to Director Raphael said in part:
“Your department has repeatedly cited Evergreen Oil for cracks and gaps in waste container storage and transfer areas, failing to track contaminated petroleum waste coming in and out of the facility, careless soil contamination, and omissions in its own inspection system.
“Still, the DTSC fined this company that generates some $36 million in annual revenues less than $60,000 under six separate consent decrees between 2006 and 2011. This practice of accepting promises that Evergreen will police itself, instead of taking the company to court, has been an abject failure. The DTSC has cited the company for failure to follow even its own simple safety procedures.
“At the same time, members of the local community say that for 25 years Evergreen has ignored federal and state laws and polluted their neighborhoods.”
The department has a special responsibility to working and middle class families in the small cities where companies produce and recycle toxics including PCBs, dioxin, and heavy metals near homes and schools, Consumer Watchdog said. Too many of these companies have mastered the arts of delay to avoid fixing leaks, improving infrastructure, and following adequate internal safety controls.
“Evergreen Oil has proven repeatedly that it cannot be trusted,” said Tucker. “The DTSC and other regulators need to put community safety first and show zero tolerance for such polluters.”
Consumer Watchdog has previously described problems at several hazardous waste sites, and also called for reforms at the DTSC to address a lack of transparency, a disconnect between inspection and enforcement, and a preference for weak settlements instead of more aggressive prosecution of serial violators.