Fire truck leaves the General Environmental Management facility in Rancho Cordova, California, after an August 2011 fire. - Screencapture Via KCRA

Fire truck leaves the General Environmental Management facility in Rancho Cordova, California, after an August 2011 fire.

Screencapture Via KCRA

A hazardous waste facility near Sacramento, California, has been ordered closed by state officials based on a track record of three fires and an explosion.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has denied a hazardous waste facility permit renewal application submitted by Stericycle Environmental Solutions Inc. for its General Environmental Management (GEM) hazardous waste facility in Rancho Cordova.  DTSC’s decision is the result of the facility owner and operator’s failure to comply with, among other things, California’s hazardous waste laws and its permit. Its compliance history demonstrates a repeating pattern of violations and mismanagement of hazardous waste at the facility, which resulted in three fires and an explosion.

“This company has repeatedly failed to comply with California’s hazardous waste laws,” said DTSC Director Meredith Williams. “Today’s decision demonstrates that DTSC will take any and all action necessary to protect the public and our environment from toxic harm.”

The owner and operator will be required to close the permitted portion of the facility, located at 11855 White Rock Road in Ranch Cordova, if the decision becomes final following a 30-day appeal period. If there is an appeal, DTSC’s decision will be stayed and the owner and operator will be able to operate under the terms of its continued permit until DTSC’s Permit Appeal Officer issues a decision on the appeal.

DTSC held a public meeting and hearing during a public comment period after making the tentative decision to deny the permit application in August 2019. DTSC received 22 public comments and responded to them in its Response to Comments document.  Anyone who made comments on the tentative denial may petition (appeal) DTSC to review any condition of the decision to deny by Sept 26.

In reaching this decision, DTSC considered GEM’s operations history over the last 10 years, which included more than 70 violations, one explosion, and three fires at the facility. In an October 2018 civil settlement, DTSC required GEM of Rancho Cordova LLC doing business as PSC Environmental Services of Rancho Cordova, LLC, Stericycle Environmental Solutions, Inc., and Stericycle, Inc. (collectively “Stericycle”) to pay more than $1.4 million in penalties for multiple violations, including those resulting from a fire in 2017 where employees intentionally ignited hazardous waste containing naphthalene, a flammable substance. There were also two earlier fires and an explosion at the facility involving improperly mixing incompatible hazardous waste.  The settlement prohibited GEM and Stericycle from handling reactive waste and required them to adequately train employees handling hazardous waste, among other conditions. GEM and Stericycle have been unable to demonstrate compliance with those requirements. GEM and Stericycle’s history of noncompliance, along with an inability to meet the terms of the settlement which were imposed to prevent future instances of noncompliance, formed the basis of DTSC’s decision to deny the permit application.