UPDATE: SQAMD hired Wayne Nastri as executive director on Friday.
As early as tomorrow morning, the board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District could name Wayne Nastri to take the place of ousted executive Barry Wallerstein. Nastri, according to environmental regulators at the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), would be a nasty piece of news.
Nastri, a former US EPA Region 9 administrator, works as an industry consultant. According to sources at the DTSC familiar with his work, he has advised lead battery recycler Quemetco, chief rival to Exide Technologies before that company was shut down under threat of federal prosecution for criminal conduct in the lead and arsenic poisoning of East LA.
Quemetco is the next Exide waiting to happen. It has the same historical problem with lead deposition on the ground, based on lead samples taken from surrounding properties more than 20 years ago. In the case of Quemetco, homes are located far closer, as little as 400 feet away from the facility, than any homes near Exide.
Under California law, permits must contain a showing that a company has the money to cover ordered corrective action—like a lead cleanup—and the money on hand to completely cover clean closure of the facility and contaminated surroundings. DTSC refuses to make the company put up the money for any cleanup thus far, and has only made the company put up $7.8 million for closure when the sum would rise into hundreds of millions, based on the outcome of Exide.
DTSC regulators were working up an estimate on how much it would cost for Quemetco to clean up its lead contamination when that process was inexplicably stopped in its tracks. The amount would have been in the tens of millions if the estimate had proceeded, perhaps even $100 million or more. Quemetco also did not fulfill virtually any of the conditions set out in its permit issued a decade ago, but is still on track for a permit renewal. Those permit conditions involved monitoring of air and water for lead. Wayne Nastri played a role in this, the DTSC sources said.
The appointment of a “company man” would be in keeping with the new tenor of the air agency now that a Republican majority controls it. The board recently voted not to reconsider its December vote to weaken regulation of air pollution by adopting a plan backed by refineries and power plants to cut smog-forming emissions. The appointment of Nastri would clarify which way the wind is blowing, and it would be a chill one for the environment.