Former Metal Processing Plant Owner Sued Over Alleged CERCLA Violations at Site

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Toxic Substances Control Account filed suit on Wednesday in the Central District of California against Manuel Reynoso, both individually and doing business as Orange County Metal Processing, or OCMP. The complaint was brought as a result of the defendant’s alleged violations of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) as well as California Health and Safety Code.

DTSC is a public agency whose responsibilities are to determine “whether there has been a release and/or threatened release of a hazardous substance into the environment and for responding to releases and/or threatened releases of hazardous substances.” The Toxic Substances Control Account “shall be a party in any action for the recovery of response costs or expenditures… that were incurred by DTSC.”

From 1976 to 2011, the defendant operated Orange County Metal Processing (OCMP), according to the complaint. OCMP primarily finished and coated metal parts used by automobile and computer manufacturers. Due to the nature of their work, OCMP frequently dealt with hazardous substances which were sometimes released into the environment, per the agency. Hazardous substances allegedly released into the environment included hexavalent chromium, cadmium, cyanide compounds, copper, zinc, tetrachloroethylene, and trichloroethylene.

The plaintiff said they conducted an inspection of the OCMP site in September of 2007, where they discovered chemical stains and discoloration, rusted tanks with chemical residue, tanks that were partially dissolved by chemicals, and wet and oily floors. These revelations prompted the plaintiff to investigate the conditions of the OCMP site further. DTSC said they entered into an agreement with the defendant where the defendant would conduct further investigation into the site under DTSC instruction.

Since 2015, the complaint says, the plaintiff has been implementing remedial actions at the site which include “soil excavation, installation of pilot system of in-situ chemical oxidation for treating groundwater and soil vapor extraction, and ongoing monitoring.” The necessary and ongoing remedial and response actions at the site have incurred significant expenses for the plaintiff. The plaintiff asserts that under CERCLA, the defendant is “jointly and severally liable,” for the conditions at the site and therefore is also liable for the response costs and corresponding interest accrued on the plaintiff’s response costs.

The complaint includes a cost recovery claim under CERCLA, a declaratory relief claim under both CERCLA and the California Health and Safety Code, and a recovery of response costs under the California Health and Safety Code. The plaintiffs are seeking favorable judgement regarding the defendant’s liability for the state of the site and the related expenses and interests, litigation fees, prejudgment interest, and any other relief deemed just by the court.