LOS ANGELES - City Attorney Mike Feuer today, in a collaboration with the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and other regulators, announced that his office has filed criminal charges against businesses in Boyle Heights for various alleged environmental violations that pose a threat to public health and safety. The action resulted from an ongoing Environmental Justice Compliance and Enforcement Initiative, a first of its kind in Los Angeles, to investigate polluters in underserved communities. Future operations are planned in Pacoima.
“Families in every Los Angeles neighborhood deserve to be protected from dangerous toxins that threaten their health and safety,” said Feuer. "We're intensifying our focus on environmental justice, deepening our partnerships with state and local agencies, and committing ourselves to rid underserved communities of pollution that no one should have to tolerate."
CalEPA formed an Environmental Justice Compliance and Enforcement Working Group to coordinate the enforcement activities of its boards and departments with local and federal partner agencies. This is the second targeted initiative to increase compliance with environmental laws in an area identified as disproportionately impacted by multiple sources of pollution. The first initiative took place in Fresno in 2013. The Working Group also engages community members in the process and connects industry leaders with assistance and resources to improve long-term compliance success.
“Fundamental principles of environmental justice require that we respond to the pollution burdens faced by our most vulnerable communities,” said Matthew Rodriquez, California Secretary for Environmental Protection. “We appreciate the Los Angeles City Attorney’s role in the Working Group and the strong action taken to enforce the State’s environmental laws.”
The conditions alleged in Feuer’s complaints potentially pose significant public safety and health risks including the unsafe storage of highly toxic chemicals which could lead to explosions and fires, and illegal disposal of highly toxic hazardous waste in the form of potassium cyanide which if it came into contact with any acid could create a deadly gas cloud.
The complaints stem from several multi-agency inspections that were conducted in August and September 2015 and coordinated through a multi-agency taskforce including the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, Los Angeles Fire Department Environmental Protection Unit, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Bureau of Sanitation Watershed Protection Division, and the Industrial Waste Management Division, LA Street Services, the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Los Angeles County Fire Department Health Hazardous Materials Division. In addition to these agencies and CalEPA, other members of the Working Group are the California Air Resources Board, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the California Department of Public Health, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety.
The five metal plating businesses charged by the City Attorney include:
• Nature’s Design (1318 Velasco Street)
The business and owner Carlos Leong, 72, were each charged with one count of illegally disposing of hazardous waste. During the course of the inspection at this location, inspectors allegedly observed a container of Potassium Cyanide discarded in a trash receptacle within the building. The charge carries a maximum penalty of one-year in the county jail and a fine up to $100,000.
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office prosecutors previously secured a conviction against Nature’s Design in 2008 for illegal disposal of hazardous waste resulting in more than $80,000 in fines, penalties and restitution.
• Bronze-Way Plating Corporation (3532 E. 15th Street)
The business and owner Benyamin Mikhaelfard, 56, were each charged with illegal storage of hazardous waste for over 90 days, failure to label hazardous waste containers, failure to close hazardous waste containers. Inspectors at the facility also allegedly observed hazardous waste constituents along the facilities floor. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six months in the county jail and a $1000 fine.
• Grana Industrial Finishers Inc. (3524 E. 14th Street)
Company president and owner John Grana, 56, was charged with seven environmental violations. Inspectors found residue of metal polishing dust in several locations outside the business. Additionally, owners failed to submit a hazardous materials business plan and an emergency response plan to LAFD, and failed to label hazardous waste containers. The violations have a potential maximum penalty of six months in the county jail and $1000 fine.
• California Electroplating Inc. (3510 E. Pico Blvd.)
Company president and owner John Grana, 56, was charged with seven environmental violations. Inspections allegedly found multiple best management practices violations including evidence of historic waste discharges, hazardous waste containers located outside without proper secondary containment and subject to storm water runoff, metal polishing dust residue outside the facility. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six months in the county jail and a $1000 fine.
• Chromal Plating (1748 Workman Street)
The corporation, Ray Bokelman, 49, Vice President and General Manager, Ernesto Carmona, 43, Operations Manager and Ethel Louise Bokelman, 81, President were each charged with five environmental and fire code violations. Inspectors allegedly observed an accumulation of a corrosive yellow and black oily liquid throughout the interior floor of the facility. Metal dust shavings were also allegedly observed outside the location near storm water runoff and the company allegedly failed to label several hazardous waste containers. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six months in the county jail and a $1000 fine.
Arraignment for each of the defendants is scheduled for January 14, 2016 in Department 47 of the Criminal Courts Building. Deputy City Attorney Elise Ruden of the City Attorney’s Environmental Justice Unit is prosecuting the cases.