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PCB Cleanup in National City : Drums of Hazardous Waste Oil Gone--Finally

January 22, 1986|JANNY SCOTT | Times Staff Writer

Nelco Refinery Corp., the National City waste-oil reprocessing firm accused of storing drums of PCB-contaminated oil in the shadow of Interstate 5, informed a Superior Court judge Tuesday that it has removed all 1,520 barrels of waste from the city, a county prosecutor said.

Josephine Kiernan, the deputy San Diego County district attorney handling the case, said lawyers for the City Center Drive firm informed the court that the drums and contaminated soil from the site have been taken to the Casmalia Resources landfill in Santa Barbara.

"Any immediate hazard has been removed," said Kiernan, whose office took Nelco to court in June, 1984, over the company's failure to remove the waste. "The main concern on the people's part was to get the material out of the county and appropriately disposed of."

The case is no longer under court supervision, unless state officials are not satisfied by the cleanup and ask that the case be put back on the calendar, Kiernan said. She said state officials have yet to decide whether to fine Nelco for its delay in cleaning up the site.

Neither Nelco's owner nor lawyer could be reached late Tuesday for comment.

Nelco, said to be the only reprocessor of used crankcase oil in San Diego County, began storing the waste on its property several years ago as the price of disposal rose. It hoped to recycle the material--which includes plastic, sulfuric acid and heavy metals--into fertilizer.

But the machine that company officials say they developed for the recycling process caught fire, and waste continued to accumulate at the plant. In June, 1984, the state won a court injunction giving the company one year to remove and dispose of the drums.

The company failed to meet the deadline, which was extended for three months. Officials said they could not afford the disposal costs, which escalated after state investigators found that some of the waste contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), suspected of causing cancer.

Finally, in November, Nelco's insurance carriers agreed to foot the bill, Kiernan said. She said cleanup began in late November and ended recently.

The cleanup appears to resolve a problem that had worried neighbors of the plant, the area's state assemblyman, and the National City fire chief, who feared that there could be toxic fumes if the drums caught fire.

Kiernan said a representative of the state attorney general's office will meet with representatives of Nelco and other state agencies involved in the case to determine whether the company will be fined.

She also said the company and state will take core samples of the soil around the plant to determine how deeply the waste oil may have soaked in, and how much more soil might have to be removed.

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