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Mission Statement: Provide the highest level of safety, and protect public health and the environment from toxic harm.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) came to Imperial County in March 2008 for an EJ Enforcement Initiative bus tour and workshop. Several EJ organizations participated, including Comite Civico. Government agencies also attended, including the local air quality management district. The EJ community in the county directed the bus to sites where environmental damage and health hazards were suspected. The sites ranged from an electric generation facility to an abandoned airfield near a school.

The bus tour led to 18 cases being established for further government investigation. By the end of 2009, 15, or 83% of the cases had been addressed, and one case resulted in a $28,000 penalty imposed for environmental violations.

Also notable is the fact that more than a third of the cases were resolved without government having to take enforcement action. For example, several empty acres that had become a longtime dumping ground in the county were shown to government officials on the bus. Community members complained that people came with their trucks to dump tires, cans and other hazardous materials at the site. DTSC inspected the site and found used oil filters, too, which are classified as hazardous waste in California. DTSC called the landowner, who made it a point to not only clean up the site but grade it and make it presentable. Because of the landowner’s cooperation, no official action was taken. But the work that DTSC did at the site and the resolution with the landowner were shared with the community.

It’s important to note that DTSC plays a unique role in Imperial County. In 2005, DTSC became responsible for implementing California’s Certified Unified Program Agency or “CUPA” program in the county. Imperial is one of only two counties in the state that does not maintain its own local CUPA program. DTSC Imperial CUPA is responsible for implementing

The New River enters California from Mexico and is known as the most severely polluted river of its size in the United States.

all six elements of the CUPA program:23

  • Hazardous waste generator and tiered per


  • Aboveground tanks

  • Underground tanks

  • Accidental release program

  • Hazardous materials inventories

  • Business plans.

DTSC’s Imperial CUPA maintains an office in the county seat of El Centro. With five inspectors, an analyst and a supervisor, the CUPA regulates more than 700 facilities in the county, investigates complaints and responds to emergencies, along with the county fire department and other assisting agencies.

Pursuant to statute, the DTSC Imperial CUPA inspector has more authority than a regular DTSC inspector has. This is advantageous from a regulatory perspective. For example, during a routine hazardous waste generator inspection, the DTSC inspector cannot cite violations of the Hazardous Materials Business Plan statutes. But a DTSC CUPA inspector can, plus cite violations of DTSC regulations, thereby streamlining the response to environmental hazards.

DTSC’s EJ Enforcement Initiative in Imperial has the makings of a unique EJ program.


23 Regulatory authority for these programs can be found in

California Health and Safety Code Chapter 6.11.


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