Arizona's e-waste putting some workers at risk

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YUMA -- It's a place you're not supposed to see. At least it seems that way, from the 10-foot tall wall guarding the mounds of glass, to its location in one of the most far-reaching corners of the state.

Tons of old TV's and computers end up at Dlubak Glass Company each year, but questions are now being raised about what happens once they get here.

“We've seen some major problems,” Benjamin Grumbles, director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

Earlier this year, the ADEQ issued five violation notices to Dlubak following a hazardous waste inspection in April.

One of the most egregious findings: soil samples testing positive for lead -- in one case, 75 times the legal limit -- the result of toxic water run-off from the facility. Even worse, the soil sample was taken from an orchard located right next door.

“We also found that there were high levels of lead dust in floor samples,” Grumbles said.

After repeated efforts to contact Dlubak, 3 On Your Side paid a visit to the Yuma facility.

The soil we found along the fence still had a gray tint to it and had glass scattered throughout, but it did appear somewhat cleaner than in the photos taken months earlier by inspectors.

Leaves on trees in the orchard were coated in gray matter, and we did find piles of glass and gray material swept, but left, near the edge of a slab of pavement. Some had even spilled onto the ground.

It's unknown whether this was, in fact, lead-laced, but according to the inspection, similar looking piles had tested positive for it.
Grumbles says while the facility has made some progress since over the past several months, it still has a long way to go.

“That's not acceptable, that is a measurable risk and it's a risk that shouldn't be tolerated,” Grumbles said.

“I'm appalled,” environmentalist Steve Brittle admits.

But what's most appalling, Brittle says, is how ADEQ is handling the Dlubak case. He believes seven months is too long to give a company to clean up their act.

“All they're doing is enabling the mishandling of this hazardous waste and contaminating Arizona,” Brittle said.

Diane Eckles with Arizona's Department of Health Services says employees would need pristine hygiene, a mask or even a respirator to safely work in this type of environment.

But our cameras caught employees working without any protection, leaving Dlubak wearing the same clothes they'd had on all day, potentially leaving a trail of lead dust for anyone who crosses paths with them to inhale.

Since the inspection, Dlubak has submitted a site assessment plan to correct the problems.
 

To read the inspection, click here: http://images.bimedia.net/documents/inspection.pdf