LOS ANGELES – In a Boyle Heights neighborhood, two miles from the Exide Technologies plant, a recycling center was the site of a smoldering six week fire in a 22 million pound and 25 foot high pile of debris, posing a serious health and safety risk to the public. City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced that his office has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the operators of the construction and demolition and inert debris processing company and criminal charges against the facility’s owner.
“The conditions at this facility pose a serious danger to this neighborhood and a health and safety risk to the food processing facilities nearby” said Feuer. “We will fight to protect the public and ensure important environmental, health and safety rules are followed."
The civil complaint names Clean Up America Inc., the operators of a construction debris company located at 2900 East Lugo Street in Boyle Heights, located between two food processing plants and just east of the Los Angeles River. The complaint also names the property owner, MERCO, LLC. The facility is only permitted to store up to 2.8 million pounds of construction debris in piles no higher than 12 feet with easily accessible fire lanes.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction against Clean Up America and MERCO requiring the facility to be in full compliance with all state, county, and City laws. The lawsuit also seeks full restitution to LAFD and the Department of Public Works, Sanitation Bureau and Watershed Protection Division for the cost of fighting the fire and removal of debris, as well as all investigative costs.
The civil lawsuit alleges that over a period of two years, Clean Up America failed to sort and remove debris within the required 15 day period and instead allowed incoming debris to pile on top of existing refuse. As a result, an over 22 million pound pile of construction debris was created measuring 250 feet wide by 250 feet long and more than 25 feet high. On September 18, 2106, three weeks after being ordered by regulators to cease accepting incoming material and remove all refuse from the site, the refuse caught fire and continued to smolder for more than six weeks. The immense size of the debris pile left no room for fire access lanes hampering LAFDs ability to quickly put out the fire for several weeks.
Clean Up America continued to bring debris to the facility despite repeated orders from regulators to stop. As late as December 19, 2016 materials were observed being brought onto the site.
Defendant Deontay Potter, 45, the owner and operator of the facility was also charged with 50 criminal counts related to failure to have proper permitting for the facility as well as multiple violations of California regulatory and City Municipal code sections. If convicted, Potter could face up to six months in jail for each count as well as fines.
Deputy City Attorneys Jessica Brown, Juliann Anderson and Suzanne Spillane are handling the litigation. Deputy City Attorney Ella Fernandez is handling the criminal matter.