Public Comment

Pacific Steel Casting Pollution Problems Again Before Berkeley City Council

By Janice Schroeder
Tuesday September 07, 2010 - 09:48:00 AM

Pacific Steel Casting Company (PSC) is still emitting toxic pollution into our air. Some community members are still feeling nauseous, getting headaches, having difficulty breathing, and experiencing asthma attacks when the pollution from Pacific Steel Casting Company is in the air. 

PSC was legally forced to release its Odor Management Plan (OMP) this year, but portions were redacted due to a claim of "trade secrets". The portions that were made public showed that there were many deficiencies in this odor management plan. Even Berkeley's Community Environmental Advisory Commission (CEAC) was concerned about PSC's OMP. They wrote a letter to the City Council detailing their concerns. Thanks to the agenda committee, (Mayor Bates and Council member Linda Maio in particular) this agenda item was number 63 of 67 at the last July, 2010 City Council meeting. Needless to say, item 63 was shelved to the next City Council meeting scheduled for September 15th. What item number will it be on the agenda this time? Will members of the public need to wait until 1 a.m. again to be told it is too late to continue the council meeting? The City Council and the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) have put Pacific Steel Casting Company on agendas after midnight on other occasions. Is this merely chance? 

Do you ever smell a burned pot handle, acrid chemical smell? It may be coming from Pacific Steel Casting Company located at 2nd and Gilman Sts. The company is comprised of three large plants which make up the facility. It is the fifth largest steel foundry in the U.S. Walk, bike or drive by the facility. Once you smell the noxious odor, you will remember it. 

Pacific Steel Casting Company had to lay off almost 300 of its workforce last year due to the economic decline, but 150 workers were rehired this past spring. Production is up and the noxious odors from PSC continue. 

The West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs (Alliance) is an all volunteer, grassroots organization dedicated to stopping air pollution and preserving safe jobs. Since 2005 the Alliance has been working hard to get Pacific Steel Casting Company to clean up its operations and stop polluting. Some of our members have been involved in this struggle since 1979.  

Noxious odors are a real nuisance, and health effects from exposure to toxic chemicals are a very serious concern. We don't know what the cumulative impact and synergistic effects are from exposure to multiple sources of pollution in our community, but we have the ability to pressure regulators to protect our community from the toxic pollution emanating from PSC.  

We want to make sure community members know of our existence and of the toxic pollution the community is subjected to from this steel foundry. Pacific Steel Casting Company must be a good neighbor and use best practices, install the most advanced, effective control equipment, stop fugitive emissions, become transparent, involve all stakeholders in decisions and implement a Toxic Use Reduction (TUR) approach. 

What can you do? Whenever you smell PSC's distinctive odor, you can call the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District) hotline to make a complaint. The toll free number is: 1-800-334-6367. You can call the hotline 24/7. Whether your complaint is confirmed by an inspector or not, the complaint is important to show PSC, the City and the Air District that the air pollution problem from PSC continues. You can also write to your council member and mayor regarding your concerns. 

Enforcement action against PSC is dependent upon called in public nuisance/odor complaints from the community. The City of Berkeley and the Air District must take action when odor complaints attributed to PSC are received by the Air District. Hold our officials and regulators accountable! 

For much more information please check out our website at: 

You are also welcome to e-mail us at: with any questions or concerns. 

Janice Schroeder is a volunteer with West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs.