An industrial mess in the South Bay exposed by the 10News I-Team is getting cleaned up.
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In November, the I-Team learned hazardous materials were being kept behind the gates of Pacific Steel Recycling in National City.
State regulators have known about the yard for nine years, but it still sits in the middle of the city on 1700 Cleveland Avenue.
Environmental experts told the I-Team they were concerned with the yard's proximity to Kimball Elementary School and Paradise Creek Educational Park. Additionally, experts said homes, businesses and a church are in the vicinity of the yard.
"The harmful materials in the piles contain toxic metals [that] when airborne can be breathed in by children," said Jill Witkowski, who runs San Diego Coastkeeper's legal clinic.
What many are wondering is what happened to the state agency that is supposed to protect the environment. The I-Team found that agency knew Pacific Steel was a problem nine years ago.
It was in 2002 that the California Department of Toxic Substances Control accused Pacific Steel of "imminent and substantial endangerment."
The state wanted the piles of debris covered, and that's when Pacific Steel tossed blue tarps over the fluff. The state then ordered the "hazardous waste" removed, but it remained there.
"There is absolutely no evidence any of this stuff was moved off the site, and here it sits
in the same piles they were talking about in 2002," Gale Filter of the San Diego Coastkeeper said in the November report.
State regulators responded to the I-Team report by forcing Pacific Steel to clean up its operation. The state estimates it will take nearly two years to clean up the site. In all, there are more than 16 million pounds of hazardous waste, including PCBs, lead and zinc.
The I-Team learned two truckloads of waste will be shipped five days a week to a Mexicali-area mill to be incinerated.
"It's going to take some time, a lot longer than I would have liked, but at least something is happening," said San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox, who represents the district where the yard is located.
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