In an effort to curb the hazardous waste illegally dumped in Mexico, inspectors will begin randomly checking trucks crossing the border, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the San Diego County Department of Health Services announced Friday.
County hazardous materials specialists will conduct the random, 24-hour-a-week inspections at the San Ysidro, Otay Mesa and Tecate border crossings, and at the San Onofre and Rainbow weigh stations in northern San Diego County, state EPA Secretary James M. Strock said.
The inspections mark an effort by both agencies to chart how much hazardous waste is transported from California to Mexico and deter illegal dumping across the border, Strock said. Most of the hazardous waste is produced as a by-product of industrial processes.
“For the first time, inspectors will be stationed at San Diego County’s border crossings on a regular basis specifically to examine trucks carrying hazardous waste,” Strock said.
“The aims of this program are to deter the illegal movement of waste . . . and to enable us to become more knowledgeable about the extent of this problem.”
Officials have little knowledge of how much hazardous waste is transported across the border because many truck drivers ignore EPA requirements to report the transport hazardous materials, officials said. Many trucks aren’t checked for hazardous materials by customs inspectors, said Gary Stephany, director of environmental health services for San Diego County.
Because the EPA has received few written requests to transport hazardous waste, officials suspect much of it is being illegally transported between the countries, Stephany said.
“The government has only been in the process of monitoring the transportation of hazardous materials for about 10 years now,” said Allan Hirsch, spokesman for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. “We feel we have reached a point now where state and local agencies are ready to take more and more responsibility in inspecting for hazardous waste at the border.”
Inspectors will perform the random checks in two-hour shifts by searching cargo and reviewing shipping papers, Stephany said.
Monthly information on trans-border shipments, including type of waste shipped, origin of the shipment and firm handling the waste will be charted in order to help authorities get a better hand on illegal activity, officials said.
Transporting illegal waste is a felony, Stephany said, adding that most of the targeted waste will come from industrial areas.
Cars will not be searched, Stephany said.
The county received $110,000 from the EPA to conduct the inspections, which will continue through June, Stephany said.