Last summer, when Baykeeper scientists reviewed pollution data from across the Bay Area, one facility stood out. Lab results from PJ’s Rebar revealed that its Fremont facility had been releasing stormwater runoff contaminated with heavy metals, nitrogen, and other pollutants. This toxic runoff then entered the stormwater system that drains directly into the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to several endangered species and is a pupping site for harbor seals. The Refuge is also a popular destination for anglers, runners, birders, and bikers.
Industrial pollutants like the ones from PJ’s pose a significant health risk to wildlife and people. Heavy metals are toxic to plants and animals, and excessive nitrogen can deplete oxygen from water, suffocating aquatic animals and spurring the growth of toxic algae blooms.
PJ’s is—unfortunately—far from unique. Stormwater runoff is a main source of Bay pollution, much of which originates from the region’s 1,900 permitted industrial facilities. Through our investigations, Baykeeper identifies and targets the worst offenders in order to stop this type of pollution and deter other facilities from violating clean water laws.
To get PJ’s to clean up its facility, we negotiated a settlement under the Clean Water Act. As a result, the company will install an advanced stormwater treatment system, as well as a number of basic pollution controls. We will monitor their progress over the coming years, requiring additional fixes if needed.
For its past pollution violations, PJ’s will also pay a penalty of $25,000 to the Rose Foundation for Communities & the Environment to help mitigate the effects of the ecological damage the company has already caused. The Rose Foundation will distribute these grant funds to local organizations who are helping to restore the health of the watershed.
There are still many more sources of industrial pollution around the Bay. But we’re grateful that there’s now one less polluter polluting the Bay—and who will become a more responsible neighbor of the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge.
Pictured, above: the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, by Peter Thoeny, Flickr/CC