One of the largest processors of precious-metal-bearing electronic scrap in the western US will stop its runoff pollution of San Francisco Bay, in a new win for Baykeeper’s Bay-Safe Industry Campaign. Xstrata Recycling in San Jose agreed to install new pollution controls after Baykeeper notified the electronics recycler last year that it was polluting the Bay with heavy metals.
Xstrata processes electronic equipment, such as cell phones and circuit boards, to recover copper and precious metals for re-use. Storm water that flows from Xstrata carries pollution to nearby storm drains that lead to San Francisco Bay. Baykeeper found that the recycler’s storm water runoff contained levels of aluminum, copper, iron, lead, and zinc in excess of legal limits.
Electronic wastes generally also contain a wide variety of additional toxic and hazardous materials, including epoxy resins, fiberglass, PCBs, PVC (polyvinyl chlorides), thermosetting plastics, tin, silicon, beryllium, cadmium, mercury, and thallium. Baykeeper obtained the results of Xstrata’s tests for pollution in its runoff, but the company has not recently monitored for these potential pollutants.
The firm’s management was very cooperative and agreed to learn more about how to clean up the contamination. As a result, Baykeeper was able to reach a legally-binding agreement for pollution control with the company without filing a lawsuit under the Clean Water Act.
After visiting Xstrata, Baykeeper recommended best management practices to help decrease the facility’s runoff pollution. Xstrata agreed to implement several measures that will control pollution from heavy metals as well as other toxics that have possibly drained into the Bay. These simple measures include installing filters in storm drains, painting rain-exposed surfaces with non-zinc-based paint, resurfacing pavement, and sweeping more often in and around the building.
Xstrata will also collect and test samples of its storm water runoff to ensure that pollution levels are decreasing. Baykeeper will monitor these pollution testing results over the next two years.
As mitigation for environmental damage caused by its past pollution, Xstrata is contributing funds to the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, a nonprofit organization that funds environmental restoration projects in the Bay Area.
Baykeeper’s Bay-Safe Industry campaign targets widespread, illegal runoff that flows into San Francisco Bay from most of the Bay Area’s 1,300 industrial facilities. In addition to winning cleanup agreements with Xstrata and other facilities found to be significantly polluting the Bay, the campaign includes legal action against major industrial polluters, outreach and education to industrial facilities, and advocacy to strengthen controls on industrial storm water.
Photo by heskettk (Flickr/CC)