Metech Recycling will pay the state of California $310,000 in penalties to settle a legal fight over years-old waste law violations.
The e-scrap recycling company recently reached a settlement with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) over hazardous and universal waste violations that occurred at Metech’s Gilroy, Calif. facility. The settlement was approved by a state court judge on Jan. 29, and DTSC published a press release about it on Feb. 25.
The settlement pertains to violations that occurred in 2015, 2016 and 2017, when Metech and its five U.S. e-scrap facilities were still owned by Singapore-based company Metech International. In September 2018, that publicly traded company agreed to essentially give the struggling e-scrap company to two of its own leaders. In February 2019, those leaders sold the company’s five U.S. e-scrap recycling facilities to a group of investors associated with First America Metal for $300,000.
One of the current leaders of the company said materials handling processes are now greatly improved.
“The good thing is the new management seriously believes in maintaining this all the time,” Rex Cheng, president of Metech, told E-Scrap News. “We’re doing so far so good. The last inspection passed with flying colors.”
Multiple violations discovered
According to a lawsuit DTSC filed against Metech, DTSC conducted inspections at the facility in May 2015, April 2016, June 2016 and May 2017, and it reviewed Metech documentation in June 2015, August 2016 and July 2017.
The department says it found a number of violations of hazardous and universal waste laws. For example, it found violations tied to cleanup after a four-alarm fire broke out at the facility in April 2016. That fire caused extensive damage and produced over 358 tons of hazardous waste in the form of burned e-scrap and batteries, according to DTSC.
DTSC officials also identified violations related to the e-scrap shredding system. According to the lawsuit, Metech had been shredding some amount of e-scrap with mercury still in it. And after finding dust in the plant contained high levels of hazardous metals, the department in September 2016 ordered Metech to shut down its e-scrap shredder.
During the shutdown period, which lasted nearly two years, Metech decontaminated the facility, replaced and retrofitted the shredding system, developed an exposure-monitoring program and implemented enhanced training and housekeeping practices, according to DTSC. The department authorized the company to restart the shredder in August 2018.
Cheng said the e-scrap shredder is now a closed system that contains dust, and the facility is operating under an approved industrial hygiene exposure monitoring work plan. He also shared air monitoring results from early 2020 that showed concentrations of mercury and other metals below employee exposure limits.
Cheng said the violations are behind Metech, but DTSC told him the company wouldn’t be able to avoid a fine. According to the settlement, Metech will pay $100,000 up front, and then the company can pay the remaining $210,000 in monthly payments over the next 15 months.
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