Local Company Dumps Hazardous Wastes Containing Nickel and Zinc into Sewers
California Plating Company (“SoCal Plating”), a local metal finishing company located in Logan Heights, and its owner, Paul Hummell, admitted illegally storing hazardous waste and unlawfully discharging the waste into the sewer system. In pleading guilty, SoCal Plating acknowledged that it illegally discharged industrial wastewaters in excess of its permit limits into the City of San Diego sewer system.
As detailed in Court, the firm’s permit required compliance with Federal pretreatment standards for metal finishers, which limits the daily maximum concentration of nickel to 3.98 mg/L and the daily maximum concentration of zinc to 2.61 mg/L. However, SoCal Plating admitted that on July 8, 2013 and October 8, 2013, its employees discharged industrial wastewater to the sewer system which contained zinc and nickel in excess of these limits.
Company owner Paul Hummell admitted that the firm’s metal finishing operations generated a number of wastewater streams, including spent corrosive cleaning and process baths, and rinse waters which were corrosive and contaminated with toxic heavy metals. On January 28, 2014, an inspection by the San Diego Department of Environmental Health Services (“DEH”) at SoCal Plating revealed drums of wastewater which had been stored at the site for over 90 days. The drums were sampled and found to contain chromium in toxic concentrations rendering it federally regulated hazardous waste. Hummell admitted that he knew that the industrial wastewater stored at the facility was hazardous waste and that no permit existed to store hazardous waste at the SoCal Plating site.
In pleading guilty, SoCal Plating agreed to pay restitution of $8,266 to DEH and $28,130 to the City of San Diego Industrial Waste Control Program for costs associated with monitoring the firm’s discharge and disposal of its wastewaters. Wastewater containing heavy metals such as those generated by metal finishers is required to be treated prior to discharge to the sewer system in order to avoid compromising the treatment works and/or pass through to the receiving waters. Heavy metals in high concentrations can damage the digesters at the sewage treatment plants, causing them to operate less efficiently.
“EPA is committed to achieve environmental justice for American communities overburdened from the illegal discharge of industrial materials,” said Jay M. Green, Special Agent in Charge for EPA’s criminal enforcement program in California. The defendants’ manner of doing business is not only dangerous, it is criminal. By refusing to comply with the law, the defendants put the unsuspecting public at serious risk”
San Diego FBI Special Agent In Charge Eric S. Birnbaum commented “The metal plating industry requires strict adherence to environmental laws due to the toxic chemicals it uses and the danger these chemicals present to our community. Today’s conviction holds the defendant accountable for his actions, and is a step in the right direction to address, a public health threat to the citizens of San Diego, and of Logan Heights in particular. The FBI will continue to work with our public and private sector partners in our ongoing efforts to safeguard the health of our citizens and prevent the ongoing degradation of our natural resources through criminal prosecution.”
Sentencing for SoCal Plating and Hummell is set for August 3, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. before the Honorable Marilyn L. Huff, United States District Judge.
- Paul Charles Hummell, Jr.
- Age: 71
- San Diego, CA
- Criminal Case No. 15cr0947-H
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Count 1: Illegal Storage of Hazardous Waste, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 6928(d)(2)(A)
Maximum Penalties: five years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine or twice the pecuniary gain or loss resulting from the offense, $100 special assessment, restitution
- Southern California Plating Company
- Incorporated: 1983
- San Diego, CA
- Criminal Case No. 15cr0946-H
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Count 1: Illegal Discharge of Pollutants, in violation of 33 U.S.C. § 1317(d) and 1319©(2)(A)
Maximum Penalties: five years’ probation, $500,000 fine or twice the pecuniary gain or loss resulting from the offense and a minimum fine of $5,000 per day of violation, $400 special assessment, restitution
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigations Division
- Federal Bureau of Investigation