Solyndra Won't Clean Up Its Mess

Solyndra is in the process of closing up shop and trashing millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded solar panels and manufacturing equipment. But the company is not disposing of everything in a timely fashion, including hazardous waste just sitting in a Northern Californian facility, KCBS reports:

REPORTER: It’s a tedious process, throwing away millions of taxpayer dollars one truckload at a time. Slowly but surely the shattered remains of the new solar panel tubes head to a recycling plant in Heyward. Meanwhile the next phase of the company’s liquidation is under way. It involves getting rid of all the heavy metals left inside the building that used to make the panels.

JAY SWARDENSKI: Copper, indium, gallium, and selenium.

REPORTER: The Fremont Fire Department’s Jay Swardenski is overseeing the cleanup. He says some of the metals like cadmium are toxic and hard to dispose of.

SWARDENSKI: They don’t degrade at all and they don’t mobilize, so we want to make sure that we don’t allow the materials to get out into the environment.

REPORTER: It’s not just the left over hazardous materials, but also the machinery used to apply them to the glass tubes.

SWARDENSKI: Certainly those tools, certain parts of them will need to be contaminated.

REPORTER: Swardenski told us in Fremont the disposal process is going smoothly. What about down the road from Fremont, here in Milpitas? Solyndra leased that building to help manufacture some of their solar panels. As far as we can tell, no one is supervising the cleanup here. The building is locked up; at the back, we found the hazardous waste storage area—discarded buckets, half-filled with liquids, and barrels labeled hazardous waste. According to court documents, the owner, a company called I Star, claims, "There may be serious environmental health and safety issues at the premises including numerous containers of solvents and chemicals, and processing equipment contaminated with lead."

DUSTIN MULVANEY: Essentially it looks like they left a pretty big mess behind here.

REPORTER: We asked San Jose State assistant professor Dustin Mulvaney to take a look at our video. He’s done research on solar waste and says it is hard to tell how much of it is at the Milpitas site. But he says one thing is for sure:

MULVANEY: Materials labeled hazardous waste require protocol more, so it’s actually more expensive to clean up. It’s very sad looking at this facility being taken apart like this.