Under threat of legal action from an environmental advocacy group, operators of a waste management plant in South San Francisco agreed to clean up their act and reduce potentially harmful runoff from spilling into the San Francisco Bay.
The South San Francisco Scavenger Company and Blue Line Transfer Station issued a joint legal agreement requiring the waste management facility at 500 E. Jaime Court to invest in improvements designed to cut down on contaminated stormwater emissions.
The agreement was reached with San Francisco Baykeeper, an advocacy group which has worked to enforce environmental protection laws through filing legal actions across the Bay Area.
Doug Button, president of South San Francisco Scavenger Company and the Blue Line Transfer Station, said the two organizations which work together to operate the facility, are amenable to upgrading the environmental protections.
“Rather than go through a long, dragged-out fight with these guys, we decided it would be better to improve our management practices,” he said.
Under the terms of the agreement, the waste management and recycling facility must regularly clean all its basins, drains and filters which flow into the Bay, improve its sweeping around the site, monitor emissions from its fleet of vehicles, and install a bioswale, which is a landscaping mechanism used to filter groundwater runoff, among other efforts.
The facility, which sits adjacent to the Bay and serves South San Francisco, Millbrae, Brisbane and Colma, faces financial penalties should terms of the agreement not be followed.
Button said the various improvements should cost the privately-owned waste management companies roughly $20,000 to install.
He added the cost of the upgrades would not be passed along to customers, but those who drop off materials for disposal at the site will be required to contribute to the cleanup effort as well.
All trucks hauling to the center will be required to cover their loads, said Button, to reduce the amount of materials that could blow off into the water.
“We believe that we are all responsible for the Bay,” he said. “So let’s try and make sure we don’t add to that and no one coming here does.”
Attorney George Torgun, who represented Baykeeper, said the path leading to reaching the agreement was relatively simple and efficient, due in part to the willingness of the scavenger company and transfer site to comply.
“They were very cooperative,” said Torgun. “They certainly seemed like they wanted to do the right thing. They care about the environment and care about the Bay. So it was a good working relationship.”
Torgun said Baykeeper began tracking emissions from the waste management site last year, and found that the amount of toxins flowing into the Bay was more than the allowable amount under the federal Clean Water Act.
He said more work must be done at the disposal site to identify solutions for addressing especially problematic areas, but felt management at the scavenger company and transfer site were committed to holding up their end of the legal agreement.
“We are going to keep monitoring how they are doing over the coming months to control pollutants from the site,” Torgun said.
The advocacy group has levied legal action against local cities such as Burlingame, Millbrae, South San Francisco, San Carlos and other municipalities in recent years to reduce emissions into the Bay.
Should South San Francisco Scavenger Company and the Blue Line Transfer fail to comply with the terms of the agreement, penalties such as $500 daily fines could be imposed.
Torgun called the threat of fines “a little incentive to follow the agreement,” he said.
For his part, Button said the companies are committed to following through on making the improvements.
“We do everything we can, and we thought we were doing everything possible,” he said. “But then again, there are always ways to improve things and that is what we are trying to do here.”
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