LOS ANGELES (AP) — A newspaper says California regulators have let hundreds of toxic waste polluters walk away from contaminated sites and dozens of waste facilities operate with expired permits.

The Los Angeles Times says the Department of Toxic Substances Control alsohas drastically reduced fines against polluting firms and reduced the number of cases it sends to prosecutors.

Even when it acts, the department is so slow that the Times says it still hasn't completed a
contamination study involving a Richmond metal plating company — more than 20 years after a toxic release sent more than 100 people to the hospital.

Department Director Debbie Raphael declined to be interviewed for the Times story. But in a statement on the agency website, Raphael says the department is committed to fixing problems.