USC pays over $80,000 in hazardous waste settlement

USC reached an $89,142 settlement with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control for alleged violations of the California Health and Safety Code involving unauthorized transport and storage of hazardous waste, DTSC said in a press release Wednesday.

According to settlement documents, between 2013 and 2015, USC allegedly shipped 7.5 tons of hazardous waste including the harmful chemicals toluene, hydrochloric acid and chloroform to its Soto Street Building Annex in Los Angeles, which houses USC Environmental Health and Safety and DPS offices. The settlement also alleges that USC failed to prepare a manifest to inform the DTSC of the waste transportation.

USC reached the settlement with DTSC in mid-December last year. Of the $89,142, $47,142 was paid out to the DTSC, and $42,000 was given to ‘supplemental environmental projects,’ the settlement documents say, through a DTSC program that encourages using settlement cases to fund programs to improve California environmental health. 

The payments include a $35,000 payment to the Coalition for Clean Air, which will use the money to install community-based air quality monitoring devices in the Wilmington-San Pedro region of Los Angeles, according to the DTSC news release.

“We expect to add 50 to 100 new monitors that will collect data about the levels of health destroying particulate matter emitted from trucks, refineries and rail yards, particularly along the Alameda Corridor,” Victor Polanco, a CCA project manager, said in an email to the Daily Trojan.

Furthermore, USC is making a $7,000 payment to Nurturing Students with Nature to aid its goal of providing environmental education to urban Los Angeles students, through experiences in nature spaces throughout the region.

“DTSC continues to hold violators accountable and protect public health, and at the same time promote projects that benefit communities most burdened by pollution,” DTSC Director Barbara Lee said in statement emailed to the Daily Trojan. “The Department appreciates that USC agreed to fund two projects that will help improve the lives and health outcomes of some of California’s most vulnerable residents.”

Along with the payments, USC is subject to increased inspection by DTSC to ensure future compliance with hazardous waste regulations, the settlement documents say.

University administration said that while they deny the allegations, they chose to settle putting funds into community health projects rather than toward a legal case with DTSC.

“USC disputes the allegations by DTSC, but instead of expending resources on litigation with DTSC at this time, it makes better sense to put those resources to good use on projects that protect community health,” USC administration said in a statement emailed to the Daily Trojan. “USC fully complies with environmental laws and puts community health front and center as a priority.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated, and contained a photo that incorrectly identified, the building in which USC allegedly stored hazardous waste. The photo has been removed. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.