Reason for skepticism

Chico Scrap Metal has a track record of environmental pollution and dishonesty

Can Chico Scrap Metal be a good neighbor? That’s the million dollar question. And based on the business’ track record, there’s reason for skepticism.

Here’s some background: In 2007, the Department of Toxic Substances Control found contamination at the facility, including polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). The next year, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey filed charges against Chico Scrap Metal’s owners for failing to clean up the environmental pollution, as was ordered by DTSC, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and remediation costs.

In other words, the business polluted its property near the Chapman neighborhood and an elementary school and refused to clean up the site until ordered to do so by a Butte County Superior Court judge. Even then, it appealed the decision. The appeal was denied in 2014.

Now fast forward to January 2015. That’s when the business’ owners came before the council to ask to stay put permanently, and made a convincing argument. Yes, they’d been ordered back in 2008 to relocate by the end of 2011, since their operations are no longer compatible with the neighborhood. But they weren’t given the aid of the city and county, as had been promised, and moving the business was prohibitively expensive. They went on to pledge to beautify the business’ facade on East 20th Street, and to become a collection-location site, rather than a processor.

It seemed reasonable, even to this newspaper, especially considering Chico Scrap Metal’s own attorney stood before the dais, stating the DTSC’s recent “exhaustive” investigation found that not only was there not any hazardous waste at the site, but also that there never had been. So, imagine our surprise the next week when that state agency informed CN&R that the statement was “untrue.” In fact, it had “found elevated levels of PCB … and the contamination remains.”

So, back to the question. Can Chico Scrap Metal be a good neighbor? We’re skeptical, but we look forward to more debates.