Heavy metal

West Sacramento Auto shredder promises jobs, raises air-quality concerns

Get your shred on.

Get your shred on.

West Sacramento could soon become home to just the third auto-shredding facility in Northern California. The operation could boost the struggling Port of West Sacramento, but shredding facilities around the state are known for bad air quality.

The proposed facility would be owned by the West Coast Recycling Group and would recycle old metal, including cars and pipes, while bringing jobs and revenue to West Sacramento. The operation would also bring with it toxic particles and noise, problems common to auto shredders elsewhere.

“The high energy from the impact of crushing creates fine particles that build up,” Thomas Cahill, director of the Delta Group, a UC Davis agency that studies air particles and climate issues, said. “The dust has a way of building up on playgrounds and can affect communities downwind.”

According to the West Coast Recycling Group, such concerns are being addressed.

“We are being extremely careful,” said Len Keck, project manager for West Coast Recycling. In particular, Keck said scrubbers, demisters and other technology will be used to capture noise and dust.

On its website, West Coast Recycling also stresses the environmentally friendly side of the project. According to the website, cars will be first “cleaned” before entering the shredder, with batteries, tires, fluids and other reusable parts removed. The shredder, which reportedly can crush a car in 28 seconds, would also separate plastic, fabric and other waste from the metal. This waste, known as fluff or ASR (auto shredder residue), would then be fixed with cement and used to cover landfills.

“We [will be] keeping things [as] cool and physically wet as possible to tamp down dust,” Keck said. On-site, storm [water] and wastewater will also be controlled and contained on-site. Excess noise will be handled by a 500-foot perimeter surrounding the facility, and by operations taking place only during daytime business hours.

The 15-acre project site at 3125 Industrial Boulevard would also be located away from existing residential neighborhoods and retail businesses.

Economically, West Sacramento Mayor and Sacramento-Yolo Port Commissioner Christopher Cabaldon said the auto shredder would bring revenue and jobs to the community.

“The port is barely in the black right now after being on the verge of bankruptcy, and [the shredder] is part of a push to make the port a center of green industry,” Cabaldon said.

(The mayor received $850 in campaign contributions in 2007 from Ziegler Associates, which provides communications consulting to the West Coast Recycling Group.)

Cabaldon added that the facility would also help the environment by cutting down on the need to truck scrapped cars and other metals to the Bay Area for recycling. Northern California’s two existing auto shredders are in Oakland and Redwood City.

“There will also be significant on-site protection, and all toxins will be fully captured,” Cabaldon told SN&R. “It’s non-negotiable.”

Cahill said he hopes this is the case and suggested local air districts also test the facility for metals that are not normally tested.

Cahill is well aware of auto-shredder facilities that, well, blow it. In 2009, with the support of California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, he published a study on air quality at Southern California ports.

His report determined that an auto/appliance shredder at Terminal Island near Long Beach contributed “rates of morbidity and mortality among the residents that are far higher than California average. … The results show clear violations of the California lead and zinc hazardous waste levels in the city of Wilmington, CA, which lies directly downwind of the ports.”

But Keck said the proposed West Sacramento facility would be different than the one at Terminal Island. “They were using antiquated practices and antiquated equipment,” he said. “This will really be a 21st-century operation.”

The West Sacramento project also meets the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District standards. Downwind, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District also is onboard. “The project raises no red flags for us,” spokeswoman Lori Kobza said.

Still, Cahill urges caution as the West Sacramento Planning Commission proceeds to the environmental-assessment stage of the project, with a meeting scheduled for August 19.

“These are not pristine rules and regulations; air pollution standards are really crappy and not the whole story,” Cahill said, citing standards that are decades old and do not account for new chemicals and systems. “There can be a lot of unintended consequences.”