Among the many things of concern to homeowners – or any residents, for that matter – in today’s dangerous world is the potential for the release of hazardous materials in their neighborhood. Hazardous materials, or “haz mats” as they are called by those who deal with them, are everywhere – from the corner gas station to the local dry cleaner.Regulations requiring permits and the filing of inventories for those who produce or store haz mats have been in place for at least 30 years. Depending upon the quantities involved, emergency response plans may also be required to provide protocols in the event of the release of such materials, whether through negligence or in the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake.The Santa Monica City Attorney’s office and the City’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment (OSE) are currently engaged in efforts to insure compliance with haz mat regulations by Santa Monica companies.In January, the City Attorney’s office sent warning letters to 12 businesses that generate or store hazardous materials in Santa Monica advising each business that the OSE had referred its case for prosecution based on the business’s failure to meet haz mat permit requirements. For the businesses addressed in this enforcement effort, the permit failures and violations had continued despite multiple notices and numerous contacts from OSE representatives.OSE’s senior environmental analyst James Conway said that about half of the 12 businesses had been out of compliance for four to five years, while the others had been delinquent for one or two years. California and Santa Monica laws require permits, fees, and hazardous material inventories from any business generating or storing significant amounts of hazardous materials. “Our goal is to protect the safety of our community and the environment from the hazards of everyday chemicals,” said Conway. “In order to do so, we need the full participation and cooperation of the business community with these state and local requirements. Unfortunately, when businesses decide to operate without a valid permit and fail to properly disclose the chemicals they are using, they are unnecessarily placing their own employees, City residents, and emergency response personnel at risk. OSE is here to assist businesses with compliance.”Since the City Attorney letters went out, two of the businesses have fully complied with the requirements, said Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades. Three have not responded at all, and the balance have expressed a willingness to comply and will be meeting with Rhoades and Conway to work out payment schedules for permit fees, providing inventories, and ensuring future compliance.As to the three businesses that have not responded, Rhoades says that enforcement actions will be filed within 10 days.
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