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SF waste hauler ordered to close concrete crushing site

Homes of the Bayview District are reflected in the window of Recology, the trash giant that serves the city. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

San Francisco’s waste collector Recology will completely cease operations at its concrete-crushing facility in Bayview-Hunters Point, regional air regulators announced.

The facility, located along San Francisco’s southeast waterfront, has broken down concrete and other construction materials for over a decade. Recology has until the end of the year to vacate the site at Pier 94, according to an agreement with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

The garbage company said it has been phasing out its debris-crushing services since 2021—today only stockpiles of debris remain at the 3-acre site. Ultimately a missed permit deadline prompted regulators to issue a violation, but residents have long voiced concerns about the debris blowing into their neighborhood as they already face disproportionate levels of industrial pollution.

“Our office and community has been pushing the Air District and Recology to address [this] site for quite some time and we are glad that Recology will be ceasing operations at the site,” said Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents the district in the southeast part of the city containing Pier 94.

READ MORE: Scandal-Plagued Recology Wants You To Pay More for Garbage Removal

When the site was fully operational, it had potential to emit inhalable, toxic air contaminants by crushing and storing debris and diesel particulate matter from the diesel engines it needed to run the facility, according to the Air District. Regulators said they have not received complaints about the site since it ceased operations.

“We know this closure will improve air quality in a neighborhood that has been disproportionately impacted by industry and vehicle emissions,” said Joseph Piasecki of the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

The Air District has imposed stricter-than-average dust control measures on Recology to ensure more debris does not fly into the area as they move out. The waste collector would face escalating penalties and legal action if it fails to safely vacate the site by the end of December.

Recology said it is working jointly with regulators to move out in an orderly fashion.

“This move is a clear demonstration of the Air District’s commitment to protect the health and well-being of Bayview Hunters Point residents,” said Philip Fine, executive officer of the Air District.

The site was once permitted to crush up to 65,000 tons of concrete and asphalt materials, and keep up to 390,000 tons of crushed debris in piles on the site, according to the Air District. Its aim was to keep demolished debris out of landfills and reuse them for new construction developments instead.

Despite its green intent, the site is residing in a neighborhood that has a Superfund shipyard, a wastewater treatment facility, a slew of industrial processing facilities and is sandwiched between two freeways. Residents in the area feel that the facility only compounded the detrimental pollutants that they are exposed to by other sources.

“I’m surrounded by folks with cancer, folks that are losing babies, folks with asthma,” said Kamillah Ealom, a Bayview-Hunters Point resident and lead community organizer of Greenaction, an environmental justice nonprofit.

“We literally get the day’s trash washed up right here at the shoreline, where we live and breathe, work and play,” she added. 

Ealom said she accepts the Air District’s decision, but she is skeptical about calling it a victory—there’s still uncertainty about how the lot will be used next.

“This needs to be a complete win instead of another worry,” she said.

Greenaction requested the Port of San Francisco, which owns the lot, to keep the community informed about applicants considering the location after Recology moves out, she said.

The Port of San Francisco did not respond to a request for comment.

“We just want to stay engaged and keep our community informed on the latest decisions, and make sure that [the Air District] follows up on the closing in December. I wish it was a little bit sooner, but I’m just thankful that finally they have closed them down.”

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