Does George Scott have a beef?

Here’s why he was fined nearly $400,000 for polluting

George Scott

George Scott

The Nor-Cal Recyclers scrap and recycling business sits in the southeast corner of the Highway 70 Industrial Park, right next to the long-closed Koppers wood treatment plant.

Nor-Cal is owned and operated by George Scott (pictured, top), one of the men behind the group Citizens for Economic Balance. Butte County District Attorney Investigator George Barber reportedly came across Scott’s debris pile while checking on the Koppers property.

This discovery launched an investigation by both the DA and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control into Scott’s operations.

In a report issued two years ago, the DTSC describes the area as an “accumulation of materials related to salvage and metal recycling. The site is generally flat with mounds of solid wastes and construction debris in localized areas.”

It continues: “Conditions at the site are uncontrolled: No security or physical barriers are present, and periodic inspections are not conducted. Soil and surface water samples collected during a May 15, 2007, joint inspection conducted by Butte County officials and DTSC staff revealed that hazardous wastes were present at the site. Hazardous wastes, including arsenic, copper, chromium, lead, zinc and a group of compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), were detected in the surface soil and waste piles at the site.”

The state agency reported it could find no permits or operational plans for scrap-metal recovery, recycling or reuse.

In June 2007, District Attorney Mike Ramsey issued a notice and order to segregate the scrap metal from soil piles containing hazardous substances, cover and secure contaminated areas from access, and post warning signs along the perimeter of the site.

A year later the DTSC issued a fence-and-post order to Scott, “to keep the public out and ensure public protection so nobody gets in there if there is any potential for contamination that could jeopardize public health.”

Kim Scott

Scott was also ordered to complete soil samplings of the property.

“Mr. Scott did not respond to us,” Ramsey said. “And that necessitated both criminal and civil action against Mr. Scott.”

Through his attorneys, Scott asked for a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts, one for hazardous waste, the other a labor-code violation for endangering his workers.

Ramsey said Scott’s workers cut up a lead-painted steel bridge with torches. “The workers were not wearing proper respirators,” Ramsey said. “A DTSC investigator went out to the … site where a worker was told by Scott specifically to cut up the steel beams from the bridge.”

The worker reportedly complained of nausea and headaches for the next week. And there were other suggestions of worker-safety violations.

“We asked workers if they had training on how to handle hazardous wastes,” Ramsey said. “They said they only knew how to drain fluids from junk cars, and for that they were trained by a used-oil hauler.

“They would spread cat litter over chemical spills, then throw it in the Dumpster, where it ends up in the landfill.”

Some 350 tons of hazardous waste sits on the site—shaker waste, the stuff left behind after cars are crushed and appliances are shredded. The shaker contains PCBs, electronic waste and, in Ramsey’s words, “other nasty stuff that gets left in the fields.”

Ramsey said high levels of PCBs have been detected in the Feather River, which flows about 1,000 feet from the property.

A few months ago, Scott tried to withdraw his plea, saying he was not well represented by his attorneys. In September, Butte County Superior Court Judge Sandra McLean denied the request. His daughter, Kim Scott, has insisted publicly that he was unfairly prosecuted.