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West Oakland Warehouse Ordered To Cease Unpermitted Waste Disposal

West Oakland Warehouse Ordered To Cease Unpermitted Waste Disposal
Neighbors complain that the warehouse blows toxic dust into the neighborhood. | Photo: Scott Morris/Hoodline
By Scott Morris - Published on April 04, 2018.

A judge ordered a West Oakland debris hauling company to cease any unpermitted waste operations yesterday after complaints that the company was emitting toxic dust led the city to sue the company.

The city’s lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court in January, accuses Santos Engineering of intentionally blowing toxic dust into the neighborhood surrounding its warehouse at 1266 28th Street.

The company is operated by Richmond resident Mocair Dos Santos, who started leasing space in the West Oakland warehouse last year.

Santos dramatically increased the scale of his operation in August, according to the city, hauling construction debris like drywall, fiberglass and old steel into the warehouse and breaking it down with heavy machinery.

A preliminary injunction approved by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman also ordered the appointment of a third-party expert to conduct an environmental assessment of the site and assist in any necessary abatement.

The injunction does not shut down Santos’ business. The case could go to trial, but during a hearing Tuesday, Seligman encouraged the city and Santos to reach a settlement before then.

The case was brought to the attention of the city attorney’s office by neighbors who started noticing more dust covering cars and sidewalks in the neighborhood after Santos moved in.

The city alleges that Santos removed parts of the ceiling and installed an exhaust fan to vent dust from the warehouse directly into the neighborhood. Because some of the dust comes from older homes, city officials are concerned it could contain asbestos and lead.

Inspectors from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District visited the warehouse in September and confirmed that debris was escaping through the exhaust fan.

After the air district’s findings, Santos installed a sprinkler system to help dampen the dust, but the city argues that it has continued to coat the surrounding neighborhood.

Residents are forced to keep their windows and doors closed, the city wrote in court filings, because the dust has caused constant coughing, lightheadedness, swollen eyes, dry throat and lungs and has aggravated their allergies and asthma.

City building inspectors also visited the site in September and issued a notice of violation to the property owner, 2850 Poplar LLC, a company controlled by Oakland developer Francis Rush III. The city ordered Rush to cease all recycling operations at his property or obtain a permit.

Santos applied for a conditional use permit on October 30th, according to the city, but the application said that the property would be used as a construction yard to park equipment and materials while not in use. So far, the city has not granted Santos a permit.

Residents have also complained that Santos has large trucks coming and going from the warehouse as early as 6am, late at night and on Saturdays. Fire inspectors visited the property and cited the company for not having adequate fire extinguishers and not properly securing gas cylinders.