The California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC), an agency within the California Environmental Protection Agency filed a civil complaint against the United States Army for violations of California hazardous waste control laws at the Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant with the Stanislaus County Superior Court. The site on Claus Road is currently known as the Riverbank Industrial Complex and is home to a variety of businesses.
According to a news release from the DTSC, the violations occurred over multiple years at the 173-acre site at 5300 Claus Road in Riverbank. The Army owns the plant, which manufactured munitions until May 2009. The munition production created a variety of hazardous wastes that the Army treated in hazardous waste treatment units at the site. The site is a permitted hazardous waste treatment and storage facility.
“Despite repeated efforts by DTSC to have the treatment units properly closed over a period of several years, the Army failed to comply,” said Paul Kewin, head of DTSC’s Enforcement and Emergency Response Division. “In order to ensure that public health and the environment are protected, DTSC expects that all hazardous waste facilities comply with the law, including the U.S. Army.”
Clean up operations were done over the course of several years and the City of Riverbank has been kept updated on the progress – or lack thereof – in the process.
“Generally speaking, the crux of the complaint is that the Army authorized acts or ‘recklessly and or negligently failed and omitted to adequately or properly supervise, control, or direct’ the Army’s employees, representatives or agents while engaged in the management, direction, operation or control of the affairs of the Army,” stated Debbie Olson LRA Executive Director, City of Riverbank in a memorandum outlining the suit to the Local Redevelopment Board and Riverbank City Manager Jill Anderson.
There were 12 specific complaints filed by the State that included, among others, failure to train employees, failure to maintain training records, and failure to provide annual certification that the facility has a program in place to reduce the volume and toxicity of hazardous waste.
“The complaint is confined to the Army’s handling of the IWTP (industrial waste treatment plant),” added Olson. “It is designed to get the attention of the Army and to induce corrective action.”
In the memorandum, Olson added some final bullet points in conclusion: that the LRA has no part in the process except to see that public health and the environment are protected; the process, property, equipment involved in the permit and the complaint belong to the Army; the Army carved out this portion of the property (and the equipment) from the transfer (of the site to the city), until it is completely remediated; and the property has restricted access to only Army and Army contractors.