The EPA says a regional board put California Waste Solutions on notice in 2002 and consequent follow-up federal investigations in 2005, 2006 and 2007 all revealed continued pollution problems. Each facility now faces fines of up to $157,000.
According to the EPA, California Waste Solutions has ignored repeated orders to clean up its act. The agency displayed photos to illustrate how California Waste Solutions is violating the Clean Water Act at two facilities in Oakland and one in San Jose.
The EPA says every time it rains, exposed trash near storm drains causes runoff to discharge litter, zinc and other pollutants into precious watersheds.
"We don't know how much pollutant was discharged over the course of the violations. These violations occurred for a duration of nearly five years," said EPA attorney Rich Campbell.
The EPA is now imposing nearly half a million dollars in fines on California Waste Solutions to force the company into compliance. The company issued a statement Wednesday saying it was not aware of any problems until 2006 and has since taken aggressive action to upgrade its storm water program.
The company went on to say, "Throughout this process, California Waste Solutions has worked closely with regulators to insure it is meeting and exceeding all regulatory requirements."
San Jose is satisfied with improvements there.
"Most recently, in our last two years, we found only minor issues and they've all been resolved very promptly," said Melody Tover, deputy director of environmental service.
The EPA is not convinced that California Waste Solutions is doing what it can and what it must to protect the environment.
"We're very forthcoming with them. We want them in compliance. We want them to know we are stepping it up because we want them in compliance, we want this problem solved," said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA's water division.
The EPA says the solutions are simple in terms of protecting the storm drain and keeping the trash covered up. The EPA also says it is confident it will get compliance with the fines, but when pushed it says it could, but does not want to resort to, court action.