[symple_googlemap title=”2900 E. Lugo St.” location=”2900 E. Lugo St.” height=”300″ zoom=”15″]

A debris pile weighing 22 million pounds far exceeds a Boyle Heights recycling center’s capability by law, triggering criminal charges against the site’s owner and a civil lawsuit against its operators, City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Thursday.

The center was the location of a recent fire that took six weeks to completely extinguish.

“What should have been a recycling center became a very dangerous dump,” Feuer said.

The civil complaint, which was filed Wednesday, names Clean Up America Inc., the operators of the center at 2900 E. Lugo St., and the property’s owner, MERCO, LLC.

The facility is permitted to store up to 2.8 million pounds of construction debris in piles no higher than 12 feet with easily accessible fire lanes, but Feuer said the pile has grown to 22 million pounds and is now 25 feet high.

When fire crews came to battle the blaze that started at the center in September, there were no fire lanes in the debris, Feuer said, and the Bureau of Sanitation had to haul away 10 thousand tons of it just so the fire could be suppressed.

Representatives with MERCO and Clean Up America could not be immediately reached for comment.

An example of an debris pile, not the one from the story. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Deontay Potter, 45, the owner and operator of the facility, was arrested and charged Wednesday with 50 misdemeanor counts related to alleged failure to have proper permitting for the facility and multiple violations of California regulatory and city municipal code sections.

Feuer said Potter is facing up to 24 1/2 years in jail and $290,000 in fines if convicted. A judge set bail for Potter at $125,000.

“We think now we have gotten his attention in what is a very significant issue,” Feuer said.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against Clean Up America and MERCO requiring the facility to be in full compliance with all state, county and city laws. The lawsuit also seeks full restitution to city agencies for the cost of fighting the September fire.

Feuer alleged the owners and operators of the site have failed to reply to multiple actions taken by the Local Enforcement Agency, an arm of the state government, to bring the site into compliance, and that the owners had no certificate of occupancy with the city.

When asked why no strong action had been taken by the city before this week, Feuer said the fire brought the site to his office’s attention.

“Certainly today’s action is a very strong response by my office. I can’t speak to other elements of the government, but I can say our office is taking it very seriously,” he said.

–City News Service 

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