Los Angeles sues recycling center owners after weekslong fire

Dive Brief:

  • The office of Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer has sued the owners of Clean Up America for permit violations that allegedly exacerbated a fire at the company's construction and demolition recycling facility in September. Feuer said the company had shown "blatant disregard" for regulations and that the conditions on its property, "pose a serious danger to this neighborhood and a health and safety risk to the food processing facilities nearby," as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
  • The suit says that Clean Up America's permits allowed for the storage of up to 2.8 million pounds of material in piles 12 feet high, provided it was processed within 15 days. Though when the fire began on Sept. 18 the site had an estimated 22 million pounds of material in a pile that was more than twice that high. This limited access for firefighters and led to a six-week process for the smoldering pile to finally be extinguished.
  • After the city gave an order to cease and desist operations, Clean Up America was reportedly still receiving material last week. The city aims to seize the property from its owner pending the approval of a judge.

Dive Insight:

This very public incident came after more than a year of city and state regulatory officials citing Clean Up America for a variety of issues. Since the facility didn't observe property setback lines and access lane requirements, firefighters had to spray water in from an adjacent site which made their job more difficult. While the company initially offered to help clean up the site its equipment was buried too deeply in the pile of material to be accessible.

As recently as 2013, Clean Up America still had a favorable reputation and was seen as a fast-growing company in the area according to one profile in a local newspaper. The company is known to specialize in roll-off container service for construction and demolition waste as well as electronics recycling. It has not been specified what type of material caused the fire or was being accepted at the property as recently as this month.

Earlier this summer, a fire also occurred at another Los Angeles recycling facility where the owner had been previously charged with multiple felonies for improper storage and disposal of hazardous materials. Fires commonly occur at waste and recycling facilities for a variety of unintended reasons, though in this case, officials believe that Clean Up America's negligence was the cause — and seem intent on ending their business because of it.

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Filed Under: Recycling Regulation