Release 99-26
July 20, 1999 
CONTACT:  Jerry Martin
Richard Varenchik
(916) 322-2990


ARB Settles for More than $1 Million in El Centro Asbestos Case

       SACRAMENTO   A settlement with the California Air Resources Board (ARB) in connection with asbestos removal at a defunct fertilizer plant will cost the J.R. Simplot Company of El Centro more than $1 million in penalties and cleanup fees.

        "Asbestos removal is an activity which must be done with the utmost care, by properly trained workers," said ARB Chairman Dr. Alan Lloyd. Asbestos fibers, when they lodge in the lungs, can cause cancer and other lung disease.

        While not admitting any wrongdoing, Simplot agreed to pay a $750,000 settlement in connection with allegations that numerous violations of the California Hazardous Waste Control Law were found between December 1996 and April 1999, when ARB inspectors investigated complaints of improper asbestos removal at the plant.  Proper cleanup of the site will raise the cost for Simplot to more than $1 million.

        ARB will receive $325,000 of the settlement, with the remaining funds divided between six other governmental agencies and environmental organizations:

        In addition, Simplot has agreed to put $500,000 in an escrow account which will be forfeited to the ARB if the company fails to meet asbestos cleanup requirements at the plant by Jan. 14, 2000.  The asbestos cleanup must be done under guidelines provided by ARB in the settlement agreement.

        Problems found during ARB inspections at the plant included asbestos not being wet prior to removal, not being immediately bagged, not put in proper storage containers; workers not having certifications available to show they were trained in  asbestos removal, and other violations. Also participating in the Simplot investigation were the USEPA, California Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Imperial County District Attorney's office.

        The Air Resources Board is California's air pollution control agency.  The ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy.  The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.

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