A Rancho Cordova facility that serves as a transfer station for hazardous waste has been ordered to cease its waste consolidation operations following two fires and an explosion in two years.
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control issued the order Wednesday to General Environmental Management, which operates the facility, including a lab and five waste management units on 4.5 acres at 11855 White Rock Road, east of Sunrise Boulevard.
Brian Johnson, deputy director of the department's Hazardous Waste Management Program, said the order was prompted by a March incident, as well as the facility's history of violations.
"It's not a common occurrence," Johnson said of the order, "but it is one of the tools in our enforcement toolbox."
The firm could appeal the order, but Mo Azose, General Environmental Management's vice president of environmental safety, said the intent is to work with state regulators to prevent future problems. A meeting could be held as early as Monday, he said, noting that until the matter is resolved about 24 employees are on furlough.
The facility receives a variety of hazardous wastes from sources including laboratories, medical facilities, universities, retailers and household hazardous waste collections. Azose said it repackages and consolidates the materials for shipment to disposal sites.
The first two incidents, in March and August 2011, were similar in nature and involved consolidation of incompatible materials.
In the August incident, a chemical reaction caused a fire that burned and destroyed four 55-gallon drums of hazardous waste, which released toxic smoke to the surrounding environment, according to the DTSC's enforcement order. As a result of the fire, two Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District firefighters were sent to the hospital for observation.
Because of that incident and the similar incident in March, Azose said, the facility stopped consolidating strong acids and oxidizers.
The most recent incident occurred when hazardous waste solids from 25 55-gallon drums and 2,893 pounds of trash were consolidated into a bin on Feb. 28. Ten more drums were then consolidated into the bin on March 2, according to state authorities.
About 6 a.m. March 3, a passer-by reported seeing flames at the site and called the fire district. According to the state order, security camera footage showed that the bin began to smolder nearly five hours before the fire was reported.
Azose said the fire is believed to have resulted from consolidation of industrial waste material that the facility doesn't often receive.
In 2010, the state fined General Environmental Management $600,000 for violations that included storing acids, solvents and other toxic waste outdoors and exceeding its waste quantity limit, as well as storing waste in unauthorized areas, and not taking proper precautions, such as a required secondary containment. Azose said those violations occurred under different ownership.
Before activities will be allowed to resume, Johnson said, General Environmental Management must present a plan to assure the state that it can safely operate the facility.
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.