Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced today that his office secured an injunction, which will prevent further operation at the Boyle Heights recycling center, Clean Up America.
After a fire at Clean Up America’s facility broke out in September of 2016, igniting a 25-foot-high pile of trash that burned for over six weeks, the city attorney’s office filed a lawsuit against the construction debris company. The civil lawsuit claims that Clean Up America Inc. did not remove enough debris within the required period and ignored instructions to stop adding to their waste pile, resulting in a public health and safety hazard.
“The injunction we've secured is a positive first step toward cleaning up this incredibly perilous fire hazard,” said Feuer. “The dangerous conditions at this facility posed a daily threat to residents, businesses and employees in this Boyle Heights neighborhood.”
Despite being approved to store just under three million pounds of trash, Clean Up America had over 22 million pounds of trash in piles the size of multi-story buildings.
The facility received written notices, “action plans” and directions from regulatory agencies to remove the trash, but continued to add more waste to the piles. After more than a year of violating safety standards observed by the Local Enforcement Agency, Clean Up America was instructed to stop taking in any more trash materials to the site.
Less than three weeks later, the mountain of trash caught fire.
The Los Angeles Fire Department battled the flames around the clock for weeks. Despite a Fire/Life Safety Violation issued by the Los Angeles Fire Department just days before the fire, there were no fire access lanes or property line setbacks put in place as required by law. Due to the massive amount of debris, firefighters were forced to extinguish the fire from a distance by shooting water on top of the debris.
According to the complaint filed by the City Attorney’s Office, Clean Up America also failed to cooperate with the Los Angeles Police Department’s orders to assist fire extinguishing efforts by, “obtaining heavy equipment to reduce the pile and capturing the runoff contaminated with high levels of E. Coli bacteria.”
The Los Angeles City Department of Public Works and Bureau of Sanitation was forced to haul trash away from the site in order to extinguish the fire.
The city attorney’s office is also seeking compensation to the Los Angeles Fire Department, Department of Public Works and Sanitation Bureau for all costs associated with the fire, the investigation and the removal of the waste materials.
Additional hearings scheduled at the end of the month will ensure that the facility is following fire and safety laws.
Owner and operator of Clean Up America, Deontay Potter, is also being charged with 50 criminal counts related to a failure to have proper permitting for the facility in addition to violations of California regulatory and City Municipal code sections.
Attempts to reach Deontay Potter were unsuccessful.