The California state agency responsible for cleaning up contaminated sites, ranging from former military bases to mom-and-pop dry cleaners, has disclosed that it failed to collect clean-up costs from polluters, resulting in taxpayers footing the bill over the years.
The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), under the leadership of Director Debbie Raphael, conducted an internal investigation that exposed the department’s failure to recoup $185 million in clean-up costs. The problem began and persisted long before Raphael was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011.
The department reported that over the 26 years of overseeing clean-ups, the department did not have a good system to bill those who were responsible for the pollution. This resulted in either failed efforts to collect the money or no effort at all in some cases. Previous administrations did not prioritize cost recovery, exacerbating the problem.
“The largest project for which a bill was not sent involved a $9.4 million clean-up of contaminated property owned by the Chemical & Pigment Co. in Bay Point, Contra Costa County,” the Sacramento Bee reported last week.
A question-and-answer document released by DTSC about the clean-up cost recovery said the agency has been working to address the issue, but sees challenges ahead. For instance, a number of sites do not have responsible parties, or the parties have gone into bankruptcy. In those cases, the likelihood of the department being able to collect owed dollars is slim.
The Department noted in the question-and-answer document that it has begun steps to recover clean-up costs. Additionally, the governor appointed a new deputy director of cost recovery, Andrew Kraus III, who has experience in program reviews and audits, to work directly with Raphael on the issue.
from Sierra Club California Capitol Voice, June 2013