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Recycling center operations continue to be scrutinized by Colton officials

The view of the American Iron & Metal, or AIM, recycling center from Mt. Vernon Avenue in Colton.
Anthony Victoria
The view of the American Iron & Metal, or AIM, recycling center from Mt. Vernon Avenue in Colton.

Operations at a metal recycling center in Colton continue to be under scrutiny. For months, city officials have worked with American Iron & Metal (AIM) to address health and safety concerns raised by residents about their plant’s operations.

Now, some commissioners say they are worried about a report from the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) that claims the company failed to properly handle hazardous waste.

AIM’s recycling center in south Colton tears apart metal items like old cars and washing machines. People who live nearby have complained it emits red smoke and that the shredding machinery makes loud noises that wake them up early in the morning.

During the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday night, city officials shared that AIM is considering making changes to its operations under new proposed conditions. To address noise complaints, AIM is agreeing to begin metal shredding operations after 7 am. They will also stop using high powered cutting tools that emit smoke and improve sound barriers to reduce noise from their shredding machine.

But some planning commissioners remain concerned. Commissioner Dr. Eric Peters cited a 2022 report from DTSC. In that report, the state agency claims that AIM stored, “hazardous waste in an unpermitted hazardous waste management unit.”

The agency considers oil, rubber and grease residue from shredding operations to be hazardous.

Anthony Victoria
AIM General Manager Diego Gagnon addressing the Colton Planning Commission during their meeting on Tuesday November 7, 2023.

Peters is asking city planners to require AIM to correct its alleged DTSC violations as part of their permitting conditions.

“They can split words and say it's not waste,” said Peters. “But the DTSC, in writing, disagrees.

AIM representative Richard Mandel believes the state agency has no jurisdiction over their plant.

“That material is not waste, it's very valuable,” he told the commission. “DTSC does not even have purview over that material.”

City Planner Mario Suarez shared that he can’t confirm if AIM has corrected the violations due to an ongoing lawsuit between DTSC and a metal recycling group.

The Colton Planning Commission will hold another hearing on AIM’s operations on January 9.

Anthony Victoria is a UC Berkeley Local News Fellow reporting for KVCR News.