Team 10: South Bay recycle yard faces fines

Posted at 6:56 PM, Jan 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-27 21:56:48-05

A South Bay recycling yard blamed for storing hazardous materials near an elementary school and apartments is in trouble again.

Pacific Steel operates on Cleveland Avenue and says it is “recycling for a clean environment,” according to one of its billboards.

However, the state said the company did not always follow its own motto.

Pacific Steel recycles big items including metal. The money is in what is pulled out of the recyclable materials, but what is left over can be toxic.

In 2002, the state said Pacific Steel unlawfully stored, treated, and disposed of hazardous waste at the site. One violation included not properly covering mounds that could spread that waste. Pacific Steel settled in 2004.

The facility is a few blocks from Kimball Elementary School and next to an apartment complex.

“We have a lot of kids. They go to school over there in the elementary school,” said a woman who identified herself as the apartment complex manager.

Team 10 first sounded the alarm about the company in 2011.

RELATED: Team 10 investigates toxic materials at local recycling yard

“The harmful materials in the piles contain toxic metals [that] when airborne can be breathed in by children,” Jill Witkowski from San Diego Coastkeeper told Team 10 in 2011.

Recently, Team 10 found troubles were not over.

Just last year, more violations alleged in another lawsuit from the Department of Toxic Substances Control said the recycle yard needed to clean up its act. The lawsuit states Pacific Steel did not “minimize the possibility of the release of hazardous waste.”

“They should have done something earlier about the chemicals and everything like that. It’s not right for the people that live here,” said the apartment complex manager.

Team 10 tried to talk to someone from Pacific Steel. A woman at the facility said the manager was on her break. Later that afternoon, a representative told Team 10 she was still out to lunch and might not return to the building.

A state spokesperson told Team 10 the recent violations were fixed. The company was fined $138,000.