State officials have ordered a recycling company to immediately stop releasing harmful pollution that might be contaminating the Watts area of South Los Angeles.

Investigators with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control say they found evidence that the S&W Atlas Iron & Metal site may be responsible for high levels of contamination on the ground and in the soil around the facility. They cited dangerous levels of chromium, copper, lead, nickel, cadmium and zinc, which they said can lead to health complications and developmental issues in children.

The site is separated by 10- to 12-foot walls from the Jordan High School campus and the Jordan Downs public housing project, and other schools are located within miles of the site.

The Los Angeles Unified School District alerted California officials about piles of hazardous waste left on the facility’s site and other contamination that was allegedly emitted from the facility onto the Jordan High School campus.

“Our highest priority is to protect California’s most vulnerable populations, including children, from irresponsible companies that take shortcuts that risk the health and safety of nearby communities,” DTSC Director Meredith Williams said. “Our enforcement power is an indispensable tool in our mission to protect all Californians—particularly in communities of color, such as Watts, where too many residents are already overly burdened by and vulnerable to dangerous pollution.”

Atlas was ordered to:

  • Clean contamination released by the facility;

  • Modify the facility as needed to prevent releases;

  • Submit a plan to control immediate threats from its business practices; and

  • Submit a public involvement strategy that will keep Watts updated on the company’s protective measures.

State officials cited a study by CalEnviroScreen that found the Watts neighborhood is disproportionately burdened by several sources of pollution.

The order against Atlas comes after the department issued three notices of violations of California’s hazardous waste law.

Atlas was previously ordered to clean up hazardous waste around the metal recycler’s site, including metal piles and dumpsters filled with dirt, debris, refrigeration compressors and leaking motor oil containers.