Dlubak Recycling Company Violates Standards in Yuma, Spreads Lead, Says DEQ; E-Waste Going to South Korea, Not Philippines


Lead-contaminated glass at the Yuma location of Dlubak Glass recycling company is being shipped to South Korea, not the Philippines, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality now reports.

Mark Shaffer, spokesman for the agency, tells us state officials named the wrong destination for the toxic garbage when we spoke with him last week about the problem first identified by a California TV news crew. Not that it matters, we suppose -- the point is, that stuff is outta here, right?

As Shaffer explains, the state doesn't have to approve the final resting place of waste shipped out of state. As long as it's not in Arizona, that's good enough. Of course, the state's position is the same kind of attitude that caused the glass to be sent from California to Arizona. Eventually, someone will have to deal with it. Shaffer says DEQ experts told him the waste will be processed in South Korean glass furnaces.

We left a message for Dave Dlubak, the company's owner, in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, but he hasn't called us back yet.

As the DEQ report from June (posted on our previous article) shows, some spots at the Yuma location of Dlubak Glass were found to have soil topped with about 70 times the regulatory amount of lead. The violation notice says glass from TVs and computers needs to be dealt with in enclosed rooms. Dlubak Glass had open mounds of glass on their property that allowed lead particles to be dispersed. Pictures by the news crews show an immense pile of what turned out to be contaminated glass. 

It looks like the DEQ was moving fairly slow on the problem before the California news crew swooped in. The company seems to be responding to the June notice.

"They are really jumping on that pile out there," says Shaffer. "They're moving immense amounts of it."

Shaffer admits the pile did grow substantially under DEQ's watch.

"They were taking on more customers," he says. "It started going beyond the bounds of what was anticipated out there."

So-called e-waste -- the remnants of old computers and other electronics -- continues to be seen as a potential environmental problem because it contains lead, mercury, dioxin and other toxic compounds. But it's generally not illegal to throw electronics in the trash, Shaffer says. Lined, covered landfills like the one in Mobile, which accepts a large part of the Valley's trash, prevent poisons from reaching groundwater supplies or blowing away in the air.

The bigger problem is when e-waste is dumped on the ground or near water supplies in rural areas, he says.

But it's not the recycling of e-waste that has government most concerned right now. E-waste contains stuff people actually want to pay good money for -- like, for instance, lead. That's not the case these days with used plastic and paper goods.

Not much has changed since our December blog post on the subject, Shaffer says -- if anything, the situation is worse.

"There's no market anywhere in the world for this stuff right now," he says.



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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.