Auto Dismantler Faces Environmental Charges

For Immediate Release
November 19th, 2001

Contact: DDA Nick Thompson (714) 347-8714

Auto Dismantler Faces Environmental Charges

SANTA ANA — A Superior Court judge has ordered an auto junk yard to stop using an underground storage tank until a trial is held to determine whether the owners dumped hazardous waste into the ground.  The court order will be served today upon the business’  manager.

All-Ford Auto Dismantlers in Anaheim and its owner, James Stratton, Sr. of Texas, have been charged with seven counts of illegally operating a hazardous underground waste storage tank. Two of the counts allege violations of the state Water Code and Fish and Game code sections because the dumping was adjacent to a flood control channel.

The complaint accuses Stratton of illegally operating a hazardous waste storage tank that has collected steam-cleaning rinse from auto parts that is laden with toxic heavy metals and petroleum by-products.  The tank was never permitted and did not meet Health and Safety Code standards to prevent the leaking of hazardous waste to the soil.  The complaint alleges that employees illegally dumped hazardous waste from the tank onto the dirt on the property.  In addition, Stratton refused to allow Health Care inspections or to comply with recommendations and directives on how his business could comply with the law and protect the environment.

On Nov. 8, the business was ordered not to operate its underground storage tank for any purpose pending trial — the first time in county history that such an order has been issued. If a judgment is entered against All-Ford after trial, the business could be fined millions of dollars in civil penalties.

The business, and the area where hazardous waste dumping took place, is adjacent to a flood control channel that feeds into the Santa Ana River.  This channel also serves to recharge drinking water aquifers below the surface. The prosecution submitted documents to the court demonstrating that there are 10 large drinking water production wells and two aquifer recharge basins within a one-mile radius from All-Ford.

Up to 75 percent of this county’s drinking water comes from groundwater.  Drinking water sources are threatened by hazardous waste contamination to the soil, groundwater, streams and rivers.  The Orange County Health Care Agency, Environmental Health Division is the responsible regulatory agency for permitting, monitoring and enforcing underground storage tank (UST) and hazardous waste generator regulations throughout most of this county.  The agency had been frustrated in its attempts to gain compliance from All-Ford for several years.  District Attorney Tony Rackauckas bolstered his Environmental Protection Unit by establishing a team in 1999 to specifically enforce UST laws in this county.