An Orange County environmental strike force raided a Santa Ana electronics firm Wednesday as part of a continuing criminal investigation of the firm's storage of hazardous waste.
The firm, Cedko Electronics Inc., which manufactures printed circuit boards, was targeted for the first major enforcement action by the county's Hazardous Materials Strike Force after a previous routine inspection allegedly found "significant" storage violations of hazardous waste, said John Hills, program manager of the hazardous materials management section of the county Health Care Agency.
In previous on-site tests, high amounts of copper were found at the firm, which Hills described as a "repeat violator."
In addition, Hills said, investigators carrying search warrants also found "some significant storage violations and some stained soil in the area . . . where the wastes are stored."
Cedko is on the 3000 block of Oak Street in an industrial area just west of the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station.
A list of hazardous materials stored on the site was not immediately available, but Hills said they pose no immediate health threat. However, he said any contamination of the soil could pose a threat to local groundwater. Another threat, he said, is the spread of "fugitive dust" (soil tainted with chemicals) that could be blown off the site.
Stained soil found at Cedko, Hills said, is an indication of illegal dumping of hazardous materials associated with the production of printed circuit boards. But he declined to say whether such dumping had, in fact, occurred, pending soil analysis and results of other tests taken Wednesday at the firm.
Cedko's president, Mateo Ster, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But a spokeswoman for the firm said, "The company has nothing to say."
More than 20 inspectors, officers and other authorities from nine agencies took part in Wednesday's raid, Hills said.
Most of the company's waste materials, containing high amounts of copper, were stored indoors and outdoors in drums and also in vats, where the circuit boards were dipped, Hills said.
Wednesday's action represents the second criminal investigation against Cedko and its owners, who previously pleaded guilty to a charge of illegally transporting hazardous waste materials, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Diane Stavenhagen Kadletz. Further details on the previous case were not immediately available Wednesday.
But Hills emphasized that the "company has had a history of repeated problems."
Kadletz, who specializes in prosecution of hazardous-waste polluters in Orange County, also said the district attorney has filed a civil prosecution against the same owners in Superior Court, but who were doing business under the name of Griffin Electronics at the same site. That case is still pending.
Formation of the interagency strike force was approved by the County Board of Supervisors last year to combine the resources of several county, municipal and state agencies in an effort to better target illegal polluters.
The strike force is coordinated through the district attorney's office and includes members from the Orange County Sheriff's and Fire departments, the county's Environmental Management Agency, the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Orange County Sanitation Districts, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and various law enforcement agencies in the county.
At the time it was formed, Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez said several agencies separately worked on detection and prosecution of toxic polluters. But Vasquez said the creation of such a strike force would result in the sharing of more information among agencies and reduce bureaucratic delays in responding to an incident.