Environment & Science

5 Boyle Heights firms face criminal charges over toxics

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announcing his office filed criminal charges against five business owners in Boyle Heights for illegally disposing of highly toxic chemicals and/or not properly storing them.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announcing his office filed criminal charges against five business owners in Boyle Heights for illegally disposing of highly toxic chemicals and/or not properly storing them.
Elizabeth Aguilera

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The owners of a jewelry business and four metal plating firms in Boyle Heights face criminal charges for allegedly violating environmental laws governing the disposal and storage of toxic chemicals, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Friday.

The companies' owners are accused of illegally disposing of highly toxic chemicals and/or not properly storing them. 

"Getting compliance is what makes the difference between a a kid growing up destined to never have cancer and someone who is destined to get it because of long time exposure to carcinogens," Feuer said about the push to crack down on alleged polluters.

The owner of jewelry company Nature’s Design, Carlos Leong, faces the steepest penalties – up to one year in jail and up to $100,000 in fines. Feuer alleges the company illegally disposed of potassium cyanide. If that chemical comes in contact with any acid it could create a lethal gas.

Nature's Design was convicted in 2008 for illegally disposing of hazardous waste and was required to pay more than $80,000 in fines, according to the city attorney's office.

The other owners could face up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. They are:

Calls to Nature's Design and three other businesses were not returned and a representative of California Electroplating  declined to comment.

Feuer said Boyle Heights residents were instrumental in bringing the companies to investigators' attention.

"The order of events began with meeting with community members," he said.

His staff asked residents, "what do you fear the most in your neighborhoods, what are the environmental issues that have given you concern over the course of time that no one has seemed responsive to so far?" said Feuer.

The effort to crack down on such polluters is part of Cal EPA’s two-year-old Environmental Justice and enforcement initiative, which focuses on areas disproportionately impacted by multiple sources of pollution. 

Other agencies working on this effort include the L.A. Fire Department Environmental Protection Unit, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.
 
Feuer said investigators will turn their attention next to polluters in Pacoima.