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San Francisco Bay Area community news

Rogue removed from Redwood City Port

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
November 29, 2007

A shipping facility at the Port of Redwood City once operated by a scofflaw hazardous-waste handler is being taken over by another firm with a clean track record in Northern California.

Clean Harbors, a Massachusetts-based waste handler, is taking charge at the port and at an East Palo Alto facility, both of which were operated by Romic Environmental Solutions. Romic shut down last summer after the California Department of Toxic Substances Control found it had violated numerous waste-storage laws and caused serious injury to an employee at its East Palo Alto facility.

The Redwood City facility is one of two hazardous-waste rail-transfer sites in California. Clean Harbors is seeking unrestricted permits from the DTSC to continue transferring fuels at the site.

Until this year, Romic was using the 1-acre port facility to take in fuel waste from its 14-acre East Palo Alto storage facility and ship it by railway to industrial companies in the Bay Area that use it to fuel cement production, said Patti Barni, acting chief of enforcement for DTSC’s Northern California operations. Clean Harbors hopes to ship fuel from its San Jose plant to those same customers, spokesman Bill Geary said.

“Our track record is good, which is not to say there haven’t been violations along the way,” Geary said. “We are the largest company in North America handling hazardous waste … and we acquire, upgrade substantially and in some cases may close facilities.”

Clean Harbors has operated sites in California for roughly five years. The firm has violated DTSC rules related to shipping documents at a site in Los Angeles in 2004, but does not have any violations in Northern California, Barni said.

In addition to problems at its East Palo Alto waste-storage site, Romic also violated DTSC rules at its Redwood City facility, including accepting waste shipments in unauthorized trucks, sending waste without proper documentation, and not repairing or reporting a storage tank that had cracks and gaps in its outer layer, Barni said.

Because of Romic’s violations, the DTSC placed restrictions on Romic in May, saying that waste containers larger than 85 gallons can’t be stored on the East Palo Alto site, and that no more than 60,550 gallons of waste fuel can be kept at the port.

For now, Clean Harbors must operate under those restrictions. The DTSC is taking public comment on the company’s permit application through Tuesday, DTSC spokeswoman Carol Northrup said.

“This site is next to the Bay, so it’s even more critical that they keep [their permits and inspections] up to date,” Northrup said.

Clean Harbors by the numbers

» Founded: 1980

» Headquarters: Norwell, Mass.

» Waste-management facilities: 49

» Customers: 45,000

» Fortune 500 customers: 325

» Number of states where it operates: 36, plus Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

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Written by Beth Winegarner

November 29, 2007 at 10:30 PM

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