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Oakland Recycler Schnitzer Steel To Pay $4.1 Million To Settle Environmental Violation Claims

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- An Oakland scrap metal recycler will pay $4.1 million to settle a lawsuit by Alameda County and the State of California alleging the company allowed hazardous waste to pollute surrounding areas of West Oakland and the Oakland Estuary.

The settlement will resolve claims that Schnitzer Steel violated emissions rules and failed to adequately warn the community about lead and cadmium exposure from the facility, according to a joint announcement by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) Wednesday said

Portland-based Schnitzer runs a metal shredding facility at the Port of Oakland among other facilities in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. The settlement also requires Schnitzer to "significantly change its operations to protect the health of Oakland residents and the environment," according to a press release, including the installation of air pollution control equipment to cut emissions by 98%.

Funding from the settlement will also pay for investments in environment projects in West Oakland.

"As a result of this settlement, Schnitzer will address a root cause of pollution that has impacted West Oakland for years,"  O'Malley said in a prepared statement. "My Office will always take action and work collaboratively to protect the community from illegal operations that negatively impact the health of our community members and the health of our environment."

"Communities in West Oakland already experience a disproportionate share of environmental pollution and some of the highest asthma rates in the state," said Becerra in a statement. "So, we won't sit back while corporate polluters make the situation worse by dispersing their toxic waste into these neighborhoods and surrounding waters."

As part of the settlement, Schnitzer came under a permanent injunction prohibiting similar future violations of law.

Schnitzer said it has worked cooperatively with state and local officials to address their concerns about the plant says there has been no evidence that emissions from the Oakland facility pose a health risk.

"Contrary to the Attorney General's press release, Schnitzer's Oakland Facility does not emit harmful levels of toxic air contaminants, and we dispute the matters alleged in the complaint," Schnitzer said in a prepared statement. "Our commitment to sustainable operations is evidenced by the more than $40 million in recent investments in environmental projects at our Oakland facility, with over $20 million in additional investments planned for 2021 and 2022."

Schnitzer's operations and alleged environmental violations are also the focus of a separate lawsuit by the Oakland A's, who claim the DTSC has been negligent in imposing and enforcing environmental laws against Schnitzer.

Since 2018, here have been at least five fires involving hazardous waste at the facility, according to the A's lawsuit.

Schnitzer is among a coalition of trade groups seeking to block the A's from constructing a new ballpark at Howard Terminal near the Port of Oakland.

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