EPA: Atlanta scrap metal plant failing to meet safety requirements

A waste pile at a site run by TAV Holdings Inc. is shown on January 26, 2022. The Environmental Protection Agency issued an emergency order earlier this year against the scrap metal processing facility, citing the “imminent and substantial endangerment” its hazardous waste releases may pose to the public and the environment.

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A waste pile at a site run by TAV Holdings Inc. is shown on January 26, 2022. The Environmental Protection Agency issued an emergency order earlier this year against the scrap metal processing facility, citing the “imminent and substantial endangerment” its hazardous waste releases may pose to the public and the environment.

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The Environmental Protection Agency says that a scrap metal processing facility in south Atlanta still has not made all of the safety improvements required by an emergency order issued against the company more than two months ago.

At a virtual public meeting held Tuesday night, an EPA official told residents that her agency notified TAV Holdings Inc. in February that it was not in compliance with the agency’s order.

The EPA order issued on January 10 warned that hazardous waste found emanating from a scrap metal processing plant could pose an “imminent and substantial” danger to humans and the environment.

Waste escaping from the plant was found to contain high levels of heavy metals, including lead, which is a dangerous neurotoxin. The plant is located near a residential area in the Glenrose Heights neighborhood and backs up directly to Crawford W. Long Middle School. Further EPA testing showed pollution has not spread onto the school’s grounds, but is contaminating a creek that winds behind the school and through the residential area.

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An unnamed tributary of the South River shown here runs between the TAV Holdings Inc. site and the back of Crawford W. Long Middle School. EPA testing has detected high levels of lead, copper and zinc in the creek.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

An unnamed tributary of the South River shown here runs between the TAV Holdings Inc. site and the back of Crawford W. Long Middle School. EPA testing has detected high levels of lead, copper and zinc in the creek.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
An unnamed tributary of the South River shown here runs between the TAV Holdings Inc. site and the back of Crawford W. Long Middle School. EPA testing has detected high levels of lead, copper and zinc in the creek.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The order required that TAV take immediate steps to keep more pollution from escaping the site, submit work plans for approval and make a host of other safety improvements.

At Tuesday’s public meeting, Carol Kemker, the director of the agency’s Region 4 Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division, said that, while the company has taken steps to better contain its waste, it has not addressed some terms of the order. Kemker did not specify which provisions TAV has not complied with yet, but said the EPA is closely monitoring the company’s progress.

“While these are important steps, there is still much work left to be done,” Kemker said.

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For now, TAV is allowed to continue operating, Kemker said, as long it does not trigger more hazardous waste releases. A spokesperson for TAV confirmed that the company is still processing metal scraps that were already on site, but is not receiving new material.

A TAV spokesperson said that the company disputes “certain aspects” of the order, but said it continues to cooperate with the EPA.

“TAV Holdings has made and continues to make a good faith effort to comply with the terms and conditions of the unilateral order and is working with EPA to reach agreement on any outstanding issues that have been identified regarding TAV Holdings compliance with the order,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

At the meeting, a representative from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration provided updates on its own ongoing investigation into conditions at TAV. That investigation stemmed from an EPA referral and concerns potential employee exposure to heavy metals at the plant, OSHA’s Region 4 consultation program manager Monica McKenzie said. The investigation opened on December 6, 2021 and must be completed within six months from that date, Mckenzie said.

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A MARTA bus passes waste piles on a site run by TAV Holdings Inc. on Wednesday, January 26, 2022. The EPA is continuing to probe off site contamination from the site, and a separate investigation by OSHA into workplace conditions at the facility is underway.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

A MARTA bus passes waste piles on a site run by TAV Holdings Inc. on Wednesday, January 26, 2022. The EPA is continuing to probe off site contamination from the site, and a separate investigation by OSHA into workplace conditions at the facility is underway.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
A MARTA bus passes waste piles on a site run by TAV Holdings Inc. on Wednesday, January 26, 2022. The EPA is continuing to probe off site contamination from the site, and a separate investigation by OSHA into workplace conditions at the facility is underway.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The EPA also shared details on the next steps in its investigation.

Residents were asked to inform the agency of any contact they have had with the creek, which has shown evidence of contamination. Recent testing of creek sediments downstream from the TAV site showed high levels of lead, copper and zinc.

“This can be general play — swimming, fishing, any other recreational activities that you use the creek for,” said Carter Owens, an on-scene coordinator for the EPA Region 4′s Superfund and emergency management division. “Let us know how often and in what capacity you interact with that creek. That way, we can develop our models off of your community input.”

In addition to developing plans for air testing, Owens said more soil samples will be collected from a nearby church, Empire Park and on a parcel next door to TAV’s stored piles of waste. That land is currently being developed as a residential property.