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Costs To Cleanup Toxic Recycling Plant Destroyed In Fire Continue To Pileup

Tehama County has apparently found a way to spare taxpayers from the costly cleanup of a Corning recycling facility that was destroyed in a spectacular fire in July of 2018. The fire at Specialized Fibers burned for two days as firefighters used literally Millions of Gallons of water to extinguish it and risked their health dealing with unknown substances. The disaster closed South Avenue for more than a week. Five months later, with rainy season beginning, Tehama County Environmental Health raised alarms that the massive piles of hazardous materials that remained would be a threat to nearby waterways, but the company was seemingly unconcerned about cleanup. When officials inspected the property after the fire, they apparently found evidence of a lot of toxins not covered by the company’s use permit, including storage tanks with petroleum and solvents. Some materials remained unidentified and were still being tested nine months later when the site was declared a public nuisance. In October of 2019 owner Bob O’Connor was arrested, booked and released for illegally storing hazardous materials and refusing to clean it up. He died in March of 2020. His wife Karen, the company’s only remaining executive officer, made a plea agreement with the Tehama County District Attorney’s Office in May of 2020 on behalf of the two corporations, Bucky Lee Inc., which owned the land, and Omega Waste Management Inc. The sentence was a fine of $1.7 Million for each of the two corporations, suspended pending cleanup, but that still never happened. The county held liens on the property, which the Tehama County Board of Supervisors has agreed to drop if a company called Pelorus acquires the land and finally cleans it up at an estimated cost of $2.6 Million. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen.