San Jose Recycler to Keep Its Polluted Runoff Out of the Bay

Jul 2, 2013
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GreenTeam of San Jose recently agreed to install controls to prevent the recycling facility’s toxic runoff pollution of San Francisco Bay. Baykeeper sued the company after documenting that GreenTeam has polluted the Bay with oil, grease, and heavy metals that include aluminum, copper, iron, zinc, and lead.

The company collects and processes paper, plastic, glass, and other materials from San Jose and surrounding communities. The materials are sorted at the GreenTeam San Jose facility using conveyor belts, screens, electromagnets, and blasts of air. Because materials are stored and moved around outdoors, they are exposed to rainfall that can run off the site after picking up harmful pollutants. Storm water from the facility flows into two storm drains that discharge to the Guadalupe River, which then flows to San Francisco Bay.

Recycling facilities provide a valuable environmental service by diverting solid waste from landfills. But if they operate in a way that causes water pollution (or other types of pollution), it can undermine the value of what they do.

Baykeeper’s legally-binding agreement with GreenTeam requires the company to cover all recyclable materials to prevent exposure to wind and rain, and to store baled materials off-site. GreenTeam must also sweep the facility much more often.

The company will test its storm water runoff for the next two years, and Baykeeper will continue to check the results. If the runoff is still contaminated, GreenTeam will be required to further upgrade its storm water pollution controls.

To help compensate for past environmental harms, GreenTeam will contribute funds to the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, a non-profit organization that supports environmental restoration projects in the Bay Area.

This agreement with GreenTeam is the latest victory in Baykeeper’s Bay-Safe Industry campaign. The 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 legal action against GreenTeam 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.

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