CARSON (CBSLA) — Concerns are rising over a warehouse in Carson that is known to contain toxic chemicals.
Parents, environmentalists and even the state attorney general believe the facility could pose a danger to residents.
The warehouse might also be operating illegally.
KCAL9’s Cristy Farjardo takes a look at the controversy. She reported from Dolphin Park in Carson. The park has shady trees, sprawling lawns. It’s a gathering place for families.
But mom Gina Espinoza now worries about the safety factor.
About a half mile from the park, a chemical facility.
“They should have gave residents’ and the community papers,” Espinoza says. “You know, like notices or something explaining what’s going on because I’m here four days a week.”
She had no idea that in 2015 the chemical warehouse on East Dominguez Street had moved in without securing the necessary permits.
A year later, a report prepared by Carson’s Planning Commission said Inland Star Distribution was operating illegally because it didn’t have an occupancy, conditional use or hazmat permit.
More troubling, the staff report warned that if certain chemicals stored at the plant were accidentally released — say in an earthquake — toxic gases could reach Del Amo Elementary, the park and the neighborhood.
“They should not be operating today,” says Jesse Marquez with Coalition for a Better Environment.
He says the city should have shut down the plant in 2016. Instead, he says the mayor met with Inland Star and the company has been given extension after extension and is now up for a conditional use permit.
“This is a serious public safety hazard,” Marquez says, “one or a combination of these chemicals in a major accident or a worst case scenario puts all of their lives and health in danger.”
“There were some legal issues,” says Mayor Albert Robles. He blames the county because the county gave Inland Star a building permit and insists that left the city no choice but to work with the facility.
The company’s CEO told Fajardo in a statement that it has all its county fire permits and it “has been operating safely in Southern California for over 23 years without incident, And is committed to full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”
But state attorney general Xavier Becerra says the whole operation is illegal.
“You do have to ask the question how is it that someone can operate a facility especially a facility that might be hazardous without a permit to do so,” Becerra says.
“Based on the advice of counsel, we wrestled with what to do,” says Mayor Robles. “what they unilaterally did, was all the bad, dangerous chemicals they banned them from their operation. So they are no longer present.”
That may not be true, according to the attorney general.
In a letter to the city, opposing granting a permit, his office wrote that the facility was still handling at least two chemicals so dangerous, they are subjected to extra regulations and warns the company hasn’t disclosed the names of more than 300 other chemicals housed there.
“If you’re telling me that’s a dangerous chemical,” says the mayor, “that’s a problem, that needs to be fixed. And if they’re not going to fix it, we’ve given them time to take the remedial action, than maybe they have to be shut down.”
That was the mayor’s response when Fajardo showed him documents she obtained listing some of the most toxic chemicals at the warehouse.
She asked the mayor if residents were notified about the toxic chemicals and he said, “no, they were not. And that’s the problem.”
That’s not sitting well with parents like Espinoza. She said her kids might be playing carefree — but she no longer is.
The company Inland Star Distribution, added: The company has yet to see the entire list of concerns but “they are committed to safety and confident they have mitigated any potential impacts.”