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Post Date: Apr 19, 2018
OAKLAND, CA — City Attorney Barbara J. Parker has secured an injunction to stop unpermitted operations of a West Oakland debris hauling company that discharged dangerous dust into the surrounding neighborhood.
In January, the City Attorney’s Affirmative Litigation, Innovation & Enforcement Division filed an environmental justice lawsuit against Santos Engineering and the business/property owner Moacir Santos. The lawsuit charged the company with intentionally blowing dust from construction debris into the neighborhood, allowing contaminated water to flow into the City’s storm water system and operating in open violation of Oakland zoning laws.
On April 3, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman granted the City’s motion for a preliminary injunction barring Santos from hauling any debris to or from its warehouse at 2850 Poplar Street. The injunction also orders Santos to stop any unpermitted and/or unlicensed operations.
Unfortunately, since that date, witnesses including City inspectors and a neighbor have seen trucks leaving and entering the warehouse – including one truck with a full load of debris. The City Attorney’s Office has sent notice to the defendants to meet and confer regarding violations of the injunction.
“We are closely monitoring Santos’ operations and will submit evidence to the court to hold defendants in contempt if necessary,” City Attorney Parker said. “West Oakland neighborhoods have long suffered disproportionately from pollution in the air, soil and ground water, and that has taken a toll on the health of West Oaklanders. It is unconscionable and contemptible for anyone to try to profit from poisoning the neighborhood – including the children and adults who live there.”
In 2017, Santos Engineering moved into the warehouse on Poplar Street, near homes, a playground and a farm in West Oakland. The company began hauling construction debris from jobs sites around the Bay Area and breaking down the debris inside the warehouse. These activities violated Oakland’s zoning laws, which require a Conditional Use Permit to conduct industrial activities outside when the activities are near a residential area.
Handling and breaking down construction debris creates vast amounts of dust that potentially contains asbestos or other hazardous materials. Instead of mitigating the harm from these activities, Santos knocked out parts of the warehouse ceiling and installed a fan to blow dust directly outside of the property and into the surrounding neighborhood. The company also illegally tapped into an East Bay Municipal Utility District fire hydrant and allowed contaminated water to run into the City’s storm water system.
Santos claimed that he was fixing violations identified by the City and other agencies, and the business applied for a Conditional Use Permit that the City ultimately rejected this month. However, neighbors still complained about dust and other nuisances generated by the business.
And the City had an additional reason to mistrust Santos’ representations about his business activities. During site inspections with City employees and throughout the Conditional Use Permit application process, a person speaking on behalf of Santos Engineering represented himself as “Jim Wolf.” After filing this lawsuit, the City learned that Mr. “Wolf’ is really James Philip Lucero, who recently was convicted in federal court of felonies related to illegal dumping of construction debris in federal wetlands.
In February, a federal jury convicted Lucero of three counts of violating the Federal Clean Water Act for illegally discharging pollutants into protected wetlands. According to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office, Lucero caused a minimum of 1000 industrial-sized truckloads of construction debris and fill material to be dumped on private property containing federally-protected wetlands and other waters in Newark, CA.
Resident Barbara Johnson and her two grandchildren live directly across the street from Santos Engineering’s warehouse in West Oakland. Since Santos began operations, Johnson said the family has been forced to keep all their windows and doors closed and have suffered persistent coughing, eye/throat irritation and lightheadedness, which they attribute to the dust generated by the business.
“I’m not opposed to anyone trying to make a living – but when it affects the community, we should hold people accountable,” Johnson said.
Chief of Staff