ARB Settles for More than $1 Million in El Centro Asbestos Case
For immediate release
SACRAMENTO – A settlement with the California Air Resources Board (ARB) in connection with asbestos removal at a defunct fertilizer plant will cost the J.R. Simplot Company of El Centro more than $1 million in penalties and cleanup fees.
"Asbestos removal is an activity which must be done with the utmost care, by properly trained workers," said ARB Chairman Dr. Alan Lloyd. Asbestos fibers, when they lodge in the lungs, can cause cancer and other lung disease.
While not admitting any wrongdoing, Simplot agreed to pay a $750,000 settlement in connection with allegations that numerous violations of the California Hazardous Waste Control Law were found between December 1996 and April 1999, when ARB inspectors investigated complaints of improper asbestos removal at the plant. Proper cleanup of the site will raise the cost for Simplot to more than $1 million.
ARB will receive $325,000 of the settlement, with the remaining funds divided between six other governmental agencies and environmental organizations:
- A payment of $200,000 for the City of El Centro and Imperial County to use in beautification and environmental enhancement projects.
- A $100,000 payment to the Imperial County District Attorney's office for the Western State's Project, which provides training and support to environmental investigations throughout California and other western states.
- A $65,000 contribution to the Imperial County Environmental Trust Fund for environmental projects.
- A payment of $25,000 to the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program to provide elementary school children with field trips and environmental education.
- A $25,000 contribution to the New River-Salton Sea 2000 Trust Fund for student training on environmental issues.
- A $10,000 contribution for next year's Imperial County Earth Day celebration.
In addition, Simplot has agreed to put $500,000 in an escrow account which will be forfeited to the ARB if the company fails to meet asbestos cleanup requirements at the plant by Jan. 14, 2000. The asbestos cleanup must be done under guidelines provided by ARB in the settlement agreement.
Problems found during ARB inspections at the plant included asbestos not being wet prior to removal, not being immediately bagged, not put in proper storage containers; workers not having certifications available to show they were trained in asbestos removal, and other violations. Also participating in the Simplot investigation were the USEPA, California Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Imperial County District Attorney's office.