LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — One of California's most powerful lawmakers is demanding action after documents were uncovered detailing trucks leaving toxic waste on Southern California freeways.
California State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon was troubled after learning about evidence showing that state regulators have known about the trucks leaking hazardous waste from a battery recycling facility, now owned by Exide, onto public roadways for nearly 25 years.
"I think it's disgusting," de Leon said. "I think, perhaps at best, you have severe negligence. At worst, you may have collusion."
CBS2 first learned of the trucks leaking lead-contaminated waste after obtaining a document, which details a California Highway Patrol stop in Castaic in 2013.
A Hazmat team had to be dispatched when "the trailer was leaking liquid onto the ground," according to the document.
Paul Kewin, Chief of Enforcement for the Department of Toxic Substances Control, said in September that his agency considered the incident to be the only one of its kind that they had knowledge about.
"That's the only case where a load of waste from that facility was found to be leaking on the road," Kewin said.
However, another document, later obtained, painted a different picture.
This document, from December 15, 1989, details an inspection conducted by the Department of Health Services — the predecessor to DTSC — on the same battery recycling facility, which was then owned by GNB Incorporated.
The report states, "A high concentration of soluble lead has been detected dripping out of the trailers."
Another report that same year suggests that DHS inspectors "...found hazardous levels of lead leaking onto Interstate 5."
While Kewis told CBS that he had no knowledge of trucks leaking before 2013, he said that, upon closer inspection, the trailers' condition reveals that they had been leaking for a long time.
"I can't explain how that got passed us," Kewin said.
Secretary for Environmental Protection Matt Rodriguez, the state's top environmental regulator, who oversees the DTSC, has refused to answer any questions regarding the issue.
However, Senator de Leon says he has a number of questions of his own.
"I know I'll be speaking with the secretary of EPA, as well as with the governor directly, to get to the bottom of this," de Leon said. "Someone's not telling the truth."
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