Everyone from the mayor to a group of young anti-pollution protestors are applauding the state's ordering Romic Environmental Technologies Corp. to immediately begin shutting down its bulk chemical recycling operation in East Palo Alto.
"I was very pleased to hear the news," Mayor David Woods said. "People are concerned for health reasons."
The group Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) also applauded the state order and scheduled a press conference for 4 p.m. today (Thursday).
In a release this morning, the group said Romic has operated its plant "with, arguably, reckless abandon." It said the company's "constant violations have put the lives of East Palo Alto residents at risk."
Romic plans to appeal the order, Romic President Namki Yi told the Weekly in an e-mail late Thursday morning.
"Romic's safety record continues to improve each quarter and Romic now performs considerably better than industry average," Yi said.
"While we always strive for better performance, Romic is proud to have enhanced our coprehensive training program. Romic places employee and community safety as a priroity and we look forward to working with DTSC during the appeals process," he said.
On Wednesday the State Department of Toxic Substances Control ordered Romic to cease nearly all of its operations in East Palo Alto and Redwood City because of repeated violations.
Romic recycles bulk industrial hazardous wastes. The state agency's enforcement order came after a June 2006 release of hazardous wastes into the baylands, a serious injury to a Romic employee in March 2006, and a violation of a state order in April 2005 about its operations.
The City of East Palo Alto voted unanimously last year to recommend to the state that Romic's operating permit not be renewed.
Woods said the city has been trying to redevelop the industrial area at the end of Bay Road near the Romic site, but some companies have shied away because of Romic's presence.
The Palo Alto City Council last month rejected a contract from Romic to transport hazardous ash from its sewage-treatment plant after several council members cited concern for their neighbors in East Palo Alto. The contract was given to another company.
"I was pleased that Palo Alto was concerned with our well-being," Woods said.
The enforcement order from the state agency prohibits Romic from "handling, treating and storing hazardous bulk liquid waste in containers greater than 85 gallons." The company is also prohibited from storing such waste in tanks on its property.
Romic has 30 days to comply.
The youth group has protested the presence of Romic's operations in East Palo Alto for several years.
"The kids will see the tangible results of their actions," former Mayor Sharifa Wilson said. "That's what gets people engaged in their community. It's like democracy in action."
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