Is Toxic Waste is Good for the Environment? S.F. Official Explains Logic behind Green Business Program.

Categories: Environment, Media

This week's Matt Smith column notes that Sims Metal Management dumps into municipal landfills tens of thousands of tons of waste California Department of Toxic Substances Control scientists say is hazardous. Yet the company somehow received a San Francisco "Green Business Award."

The column asked: How could a toxic-waste dumper be stamped officially green? Isn't that taxpayer-funded greenwashing?

In response to our inquiry, (but after our deadline) Sushma Dhulipala Bhatia, who directs the city's Green Business program, kindly investigated the matter, and offered some insight into how a major toxic waste dumper might become an officially designated local green business.

The designation was based in part on the fact Sims didn't use toxic chemicals to clean up the San Francisco pier they where collect recyclables, and that the company made sure wastewater at that pier didn't spill into the bay, Dhulipala Bhatia reported.

To our minds, this is kind of like Typhoid Mary earning a health and safety award for washing her hands after going to the bathroom.

But we'll let Dhulipala Bhatia speak for herself. Here's the e-mail we received from her:

Since our phone conversation, I looked through the files for Sims Metal and also talked with the Public Health Dept. staff that completed their compliance assessment.

Through the Green Business assessment process, we evaluated Sims Metal's energy and water efficiency, waste management and pollution prevention at the local SF site (Green Business recognition is tied to the business practices at the facility that they are operating at). Under the pollution prevention section, we evaluated their use of toxic chemicals (such as those used for cleaning the premises) and prevention of stormwater/waste water pollution (through dry sweeping, closed loop water system). The evaluation was done only at the SF site that was ultimately recognized as a green business. Their recognition is now almost 3 years old, which means they will be up for re-evaluation soon.

The DPH Compliance inspector I talked to (and that originally completed the GB assessment for compliance) was not aware of their position on the automotive shredder waste reclass. She mentioned the following -- "We only handle local compliance and they are great in my book. What they do with DTSC and rule making changes just don't get to our local level."

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