When Custom Alloy Scrap Sales Inc. (CASS), a large recycler of ferrous and nonferrous metals, was founded in 1969 in West Oakland, California, the surrounding neighborhood was largely industrial. Over the decades, that neighborhood has changed, and the area’s recent rising popularity has seen many former industrial buildings turned into residential housing and modern lofts.
Throughout the years, CASS has continued to service domestic and international markets with its scrap metal recycling and secondary aluminum manufacturing facilities while also maintaining a positive presence in its local community.
“We are an industrial facility, but we are also neighbors who live and work in the community,” says CASS CEO Edward Kangeter. “And our goal is to be a good neighbor and contributor to society while fostering a sustainable approach to utilizing natural resources.”
Because of its proximity to the San Francisco Bay and the rapidly growing residential areas that surround it, the 8-acre recycling facility has always tried to meet local, state and federal regulatory requirements. But, with reclaimed metal stored in the open-air at the facility, the potential to release pollutants in stormwater runoff into local waterways is a perpetual concern.
The company initially tried to manage things on its own, but it soon realized its homegrown effort wasn’t sufficient to meet California’s water quality benchmarks, the compliance standard that went into effect a decade ago in California. (Since that time, California has enacted a new Industrial General Permit [IGP] that is more prescriptive than the prior permit. See the sidebar, “California’s Industrial General Permit,” below.)
More than 10 years ago, CASS’ management team decided to invest in an engineered solution and advanced treatment best management practices (BMPs) that would allow the company to get ahead of the curve with regard to future regulatory changes. The company discovered that many solutions on the market were either prohibitive in cost or weren’t robust enough to handle the stormwater runoff from an industrial facility of CASS’ size and scope.
CASS researched stormwater treatment options and found a supplier specializing in industrial stormwater applications. StormwateRx LLC, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, did an engineering analysis of the facility and offered a professional-grade, yet cost-effective, passive treatment solution.
“We felt confident in the engineering and treatment equipment because StormwateRx already had the respect of our industry, the regulatory inspectors and the environmental community,” Kangeter says. “The best part was working with their team of engineers. They’re committed to being service-oriented and providing products that address requirements. And they do business in way that gains confidence—they do what they say they’ll do, and they don’t overpromise.”
A good decision pays off
As it turned out, that investment more than 10 years ago had an immediate payoff for CASS. The ink was barely dry on the equipment order when CASS was hit with an eight-figure lawsuit for exceeding state stormwater benchmarks based on CASS’ most recent self-reporting to the water board. The suit was brought by a third-party environmental group.
The company was able to respond quickly, demonstrating ahead of litigation that it had proactively done its research and that the stormwater pollutant separation and filtration equipment that would enable the company to comply with the permit requirements was already on order. The performance forecast and references StormwateRx provided gave regulators and the environmental group confidence that CASS’ new stormwater treatment system would be effective.
CASS says the system was effective—and it continues to be.
Over the past decade, CASS has doubled its production throughput at its recycling yards, increasing the amount of pollutant load that must be removed by its stormwater treatment systems. By implementing extensive source control and structural BMPs in concert with StormwateRx’s industrial stormwater treatment systems, CASS says it has consistently complied with its permit despite the growth.
In addition to its regulatory efforts and pollution control equipment, CASS also incorporates ISO 14001 certification for environmental standards, which the company says is difficult to achieve.
“California’s industrial stormwater standards have continued to evolve over time, so we’ve continued to innovate our advanced treatment products and introduce new technologies and operations support to ensure compliance and customer satisfaction,” says Calvin Noling, founder of StormwateRx, a registered professional engineer in California and a member of the California Industrial General Permit Training Team, a group of subject experts assembled by the state whose mission it is to aid in the education and rollout of the IGP. “CASS’ team has shown a strong commitment to the community and environmental protection, which makes them an ideal customer.”
How the system works
StormwateRx, which designs, manufactures, installs and maintains semipassive stormwater treatment and pollution control systems for industrial customers throughout North America, provided CASS with stormwater treatment systems for two of its ferrous and nonferrous metal recycling yards. Semipassive treatment systems require no chemicals and have no moving parts so are inherently simple and safe to operate, according to the supplier.
The company was able to identify a retrofit design that incorporated effective treatment without major operational disruptions or infrastructure changes. The supplier sized the treatment to meet the regulatory standards and provided treatment equipment that works within the duty and footprint restrictions of a busy metal recycling facility. Ongoing maintenance support provided by StormwateRx helps CASS stay focused on its business while maintaining confidence in its environmental compliance.
Based on the two sites’ specific pollutant needs as well as known pollutants commonly found in scrap yard stormwater runoff, the treatment used by CASS includes:
- Clara plug flow separators to remove oil, hydrocarbons and settleable solids, such as metal fragments, using gravity;
- detention surge tanks to smooth out flow rates to downstream treatment system;
- Retenu roughing filters to remove larger particulates; and
- Aquip enhanced stormwater filtration to remove dissolved pollutants and fine particulates down to 3 microns in size. (By comparison, the average human hair is 50 microns thick, and a red blood cell is 5 microns across.)
The stormwater treatment systems were installed and are continually operated and maintained without disruption to facility operations. Ongoing stormwater system upgrades are keeping CASS compliant with its permit and helping the company maintain its reputation for community stewardship.
Good stormwater practices, good business
Kangeter says these efforts have not only helped the company to comply with stormwater permits but also have given CASS a competitive advantage.
“When you’re competing in a global market, it’s important that you invest in technologies and efficiencies that allow you to meet local, state and federal regulatory compliance while still being competitive from a pricing and overhead perspective,” he explains. “We’re in California, which now has some of the strictest standards anywhere. And we’re competing with recyclers in less regulated states as well as overseas.”
CASS has a reputation in the industry for meeting regulatory requirements, and this has attracted a higher quality of suppliers that want to partner with companies that take regulatory compliance seriously and that minimize their environment risks.
Kangeter adds, “We feel that being a good steward is a critical component of our business. Our environmental suppliers play a vital role in our ability to remain compliant with regulations, so we have sought out partner companies that have a strong reputation in the marketplace and that have professional and business integrity that matches ours.”