Air District Issues 2 Violations Against Richmond Metals Company After Fire

Two air quality violations have been leveled against a metals company after a fire broke out last week at its Richmond facility, Bay Area Air Quality Management District officials said Tuesday.

Sims Metal Management was issued a public nuisance violation and an illegal open burning violation after a fire Jan. 30 at its scrap metal recycling yard at 600 S. Fourth St.

Fines and penalties are under review and will be levied in the future, air district officials said.

The fire started at about 5 p.m. and led to a shelter-in-place order for residents in the nearby area.

Elevated levels of benzene, a carcinogen, were found in the air near the fire and at an air pollution monitor at Point Richmond.

"The Air District is continuing to investigate this incident for all potential air quality violations in collaboration with Contra Costa Health Services and other agencies," district executive officer Jack

Broadbent said in a statement.

Flames burned a large scrap metal pile, sending heavy black smoke into the air and resulting in air quality complaints from residents and local authorities.

Air district officials said that there were road closures and limited evacuations in addition to the shelter-in-place order, all of which prompted the public nuisance violation.

The violation for illegal burning was leveled against the company because it should have prevented the fire.

Dr. David Goldstein, Contra Costa Health Services deputy health officer, said it's difficult to say there was no negative health affects from the elevated levels of benzene.

But "the real concern would be long-term exposure" and the elevated levels did not last long enough for residents to be exposed to benzene "long-term," Goldstein said.

Sims Metal Management spokeswoman Jill Rodby said, "We will need to review the notices and work cooperatively with the agency to address its concerns."

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