Pacific Rim Recycling in Benicia recently agreed to install controls to keep the recycling facility’s toxic runoff from polluting San Francisco Bay. Baykeeper brought suit under the Clean Water Act based on Pacific Rim’s reports of tests of its runoff. The testing showed that the facility was releasing high levels of pollutants such as oil, grease, copper, lead, and aluminum into Carquinez Strait, which flows into the Bay.
The company collects and processes recyclable materials from households, businesses, and government agencies, including paper, metal, and electronic waste. Materials are stored outdoors at Pacific Rim, and when rain falls on the materials, it picks up pollutants before flowing off the site and into the strait.
Pacific Rim was extremely cooperative in working with Baykeeper to make improvements at its facility. The company has signed a legally-binding agreement committing to implementing controls that include collecting storm water and treating it onsite. To treat the polluted water, Pacific Rim will build a new biofiltration swale, a channel containing plants and lined with layers of filtering that captures and breaks down pollutants. The company will also sweep the site more frequently, and test its runoff to make sure its pollution is below Clean Water Act levels of concern.
Baykeeper has now secured cleanup agreements with ten recycling facilities, including Pacific Rim, that had previously been allowing toxic runoff to pollute of San Francisco Bay. Recycling facilities provide a valuable environmental service by diverting solid waste from landfills. But pollution from the recycling activities, if left unchecked, can undermine the value of what they do.
This agreement with Pacific Rim is the latest victory in Baykeeper's Bay-Safe Industry Campaign. The campaign targets the widespread problem of illegal runoff that flows into San Francisco Bay from most of the Bay Area’s 1,300 industrial facilities. In addition to legal action against Pacific Rim and other facilities found to be significantly polluting the Bay, the campaign includes outreach and education to industrial facilities, and advocacy to strengthen controls on industrial storm water.