Judge Rules to Include Community Group in State Lawsuit to Clean Up Chemical Manufacturing Plant

Neighbors near Corteva Pittsburg Operations plant fear exposure

SAN FRANCISCO – A judge ruled today that Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) can be a plaintiff-intervenor in a new lawsuit aimed at cleaning up a Bay Area chemical manufacturing plant today, brought by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). CBE is represented by attorneys from the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and Aqua Terra Aeris (ATA) Law Group, as well as its staff attorneys. 

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the plant in Pittsburg, California, then-owned by Dow, was processing millions of gallons of waste liquids through a wastewater treatment system without the required permit(s) to treat hazardous waste.  

EPA sampled the tanks storing wastewater prior to treatment and documented over 1,050 instances of corrosive hazardous wastes, as well as several instances of unauthorized treatment of toxic waste consisting of carbon tetrachloride, tetrachloroethylene, and methylene chloride. These chemicals seriously affect the central nervous system and liver, and likely cause cancer.   

Many of the same violations were confirmed by DTSC in November 2020, over 4 years after EPA’s initial inspection. DTSC also found some of this hazardous waste was being stored in tanks without tops and tanks that vent to the ambient air without required pollution controls.   

Neighboring community members remain concerned about their exposure to hazardous waste emissions and discharges, and the potential for future catastrophic leaks. Dow has since separated into many companies, including Corteva, Inc. and subsidiaries, which now own the plant. 

More than five years later, the Pittsburg Facility continues to handle and store hazardous waste without the protections, planning, recordkeeping, and monitoring that would be required with a hazardous waste permit. CBE filed a federal lawsuit for these violations in December 2019. The State, through the Department of Toxic Substances Control, followed with a state court lawsuit in September 2021. CBE’s motion to join the state lawsuit was granted today. 

“The State of California is stepping up to finally stop this dangerous chemical manufacturing plant from harming the community of Pittsburg and polluting the surrounding air, water ways and environment, and we look forward to partnering in this enforcement case,” said Shana Lazerow, CBE’s Legal Director. 

 “This facility needs to be held accountable and start following state and federal permitting rules,” said Simi Bhat, an NRDC attorney handling the case. “DTSC’s involvement in this case is important to show Dow and others in the industry that cutting corners while manufacturing chemicals will not be tolerated.” 

“Treating hazardous wastes without a permit not only poses major dangers for the surrounding community, but also denies the public from knowing how those wastes are managed from the ‘cradle to grave,’ as required,” said Matthew Maclear, an ATA partner handling the case.   

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) is one of the preeminent environmental justice organizations in the nation. The mission of CBE is to build people’s power in California’s communities of color and low income communities to achieve environmental health and justice by preventing and reducing pollution and building green, healthy and sustainable communities and environments. Visit us at www.cbecal.org  

Aqua Terra Aeris Law Group (ATA) is an Oakland-based law firm dedicated to protecting the public health and environment for Californians.  Visit us at www.atalawgroup.com

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