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EPA Fines 2 Southern California Plastics Companies for Fouling LA River with ‘Nurdles’

Two companies were fined a total of $35,000 on Wednesday for spilling tiny plastic beads that can harm wildlife into local storm channels that empty into the Los Angeles River.

Modern Concepts, Inc., of Compton, and Double R Trading Inc., of City of Industry, were penalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

The companies failed to secure plastic pellets known as “nurdles” from reaching local waterways where they can be ingested by fish, birds and other wildlife, causing illness and death, the EPA said.  Toxic chemicals from the plastics might be absorbed by the river or ocean waters, migrate up the food chain and pose risks to human health, according to their prepared statement.

“We urge manufacturers to take the steps needed to keep plastic materials out of our waterways, where they harm marine organisms and birds,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s acting regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest in the statement.

The nurdles, as small as 1/5-inch in diameter, were washed into storm drains and ended up in the Los Angeles River and the Port of Los Angeles, according to EPA inspections at the two locations during 2016.

Under the terms of the settlements, both companies have since corrected the violations and have returned to compliance, the agency reported.

Modern Concepts

The nurdles, used in the manufacture of plastic products, were improperly stored at Modern Concepts. Inspectors from the EPA and the Regional Water Quality Control Board observed the pellets spilled on the pavement throughout the Compton plant located near Compton Creek, a tributary of the L.A. River.

The inspectors also said the facility lacked pollution prevention equipment and stored the pellets in cardboard bins that may have leaked when exposed to rain and wind.

Modern Concepts was assessed a $12,000 penalty by the EPA.

Double R Trading

Double R Trading operates a recycling plant that grinds plastic materials into flakes that are exported to China, the EPA reported. Violations occurred at the company’s Compton facility before moving to City of Industry.

“Large amounts of exposed plastic materials and fragments” were spilled on paved surfaces, which led to the material washing into Dominguez Channel, the EPA reported.

Also, Double R Trading did not have the proper permits for waste-water discharge and was operating without permits, the EPA said.

Double R Trading will pay a $23,326 penalty.

Learn more at OCR

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