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News from:
City Attorney Barbara J. Parker

Thursday, February 1, 2018

City Attorney files environmental justice lawsuit against debris hauling company that blew dangerous dust into West Oakland neighborhood

Santos Engineering operates near homes and a park in open violation of City zoning laws

OAKLAND, CA – City Attorney Barbara J. Parker has sued a West Oakland debris hauling company to stop it from discharging massive amounts of dangerous dust that potentially contains asbestos or other hazardous materials into the surrounding neighborhood and City storm drains.

The lawsuit against Santos Engineering charges the company with intentionally blowing dust from construction debris into the neighborhood, allowing contaminated water to flow into the City’s storm water system and operating in violation of Oakland zoning laws. 

“West Oakland neighborhoods have suffered disproportionately from pollution in the air, soil and ground water, and that has taken a toll on the health of West Oaklanders,” City Attorney Parker said. “Children living near freeways in Oakland are hospitalized for asthma at 12 times the rate of children in Lafayette, and West Oakland residents suffer a 2.5 times greater lifetime risk of cancer compared to the Bay Area as a whole. This lawsuit is about environmental justice for West Oakland. Given the environmental threats in the neighborhood, it is unconscionable for anyone to deliberately add to this danger and potentially harm the health of children who live nearby.”  

In 2017, Santos Engineering moved into a warehouse at 2850 Poplar Street, near homes, a playground and a farm in West Oakland. The company hauls construction debris from job sites around the Bay Area to the warehouse where it then stores, sorts and breaks down large amounts of materials, likely including materials that are known sources of asbestos.

Handling and breaking down construction debris creates huge amounts of dust. Instead of mitigating the harm from these activities, Santos knocked out parts of the warehouse ceiling and installed a fan to blow dust directly outside of the property and into the surrounding neighborhood.

The company also illegally tapped into an East Bay Municipal Utility District fire hydrant and allowed contaminated water to run into the City’s storm water system. In addition, the company routes its trucks down residential streets where commercial trucks are prohibited under City law. Santos continues to operate in open violation of Oakland’s zoning laws, which require a Conditional Use Permit to conduct outside industrial activities near a residential area. The company only applied for a permit two months after the City issued a citation for the violation and continues to operate illegally at the property.

Neighboring residents and businesses have complained about dust covering cars and homes, including a grandmother and her two grandchildren who live directly across the street from the property. Since Santos began operations, the family members have been forced to keep all their windows and doors closed and have suffered persistent coughing, eye/throat irritation and lightheadedness, which they attribute to the dust projected from the warehouse into the neighborhood.

The lawsuit which the City Attorney’s Neighborhood Law Corps and Community Lawyering & Civil Rights units jointly filed on January 18th asks the court to declare the company’s operations at the property to be a public nuisance, and to issue an injunction to immediately stop the nuisance activity. The lawsuit also asks for punitive damages and other penalties, fees and costs.

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