BREAKING NEWS: Coalition urges DTSC to amend and reissue existing suspension order for Exide’s Vernon lead smelter; Facility should be shut down until all facts are known
June 18, 2013, 9:32 a.m. EDT
DTSC Urged to Amend and Reissue the Existing Suspension Order; Exide’s Vernon Facility Should Be Shut Down Until All Facts Are Known
VERNON, CA–(Marketwired – Jun 18, 2013) – A broad coalition of residents, factory workers and community leaders are asking Judge Luis Lavin and public agencies to put the health of local communities, and families, before Exide’s bottom line.
On Monday, June 17, Exide Technologies won a temporary reprieve that prevents the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) from enforcing its shutdown of the company’s Vernon plant. That means the lead battery recycler can restart its operations, threatening Californians with renewed pollution of their air and water, Consumer Watchdog said today.
Coalition spokesperson and Bell Gardens Councilman Daniel Crespo said, “We agree with Consumer Watchdog’s statement: The DTSC chose to act on the basis of air emissions and groundwater contamination, rather than on the basis of the accumulation of hazardous waste on the ground. Liza Tucker of Consumer Watchdog said that was a tactical mistake.” “The DTSC could have acted on the basis of hazardous waste accumulating on the ground and endangering the public health long ago,” said Tucker. “Shutting them down for that would have been a slam dunk.”
“The Exide facility is like a refinery; you can’t just flip a switch and start it up without extensive safety testing. In addition, there are inherent risks when a facility is restarted which increases the risk to the public during start up,” said Crespo.
The SCAQMD has said the facility emits excessive levels of toxic air emissions — arsenic and lead and the DTSC recognized publicly that the facility is now and has been polluting the air, ground, and groundwater surrounding the facility.
“Every regulatory agency with oversight of the plant involved in health and safety of the surrounding neighborhoods and plant workers should use every power in their authority to keep the Exide doors closed. The agencies let this facility continue to threaten the health of neighbors for years and finally did something. Now the Court will allow them to operate, despite the fact that the company filed for Bankruptcy just over a week ago,” said Crespo.
“The Court’s Order puts both the surrounding community and the facility’s workers at increased risk. This facility processes dangerous hazardous waste, toxic lead. That’s a fact,” said Crespo.
“Judge Lavin’s ruling puts the health and safety of the people in the neighborhoods at risk. The nature of today’s hearing did not give the public a right to participate or provide comments prior to the Court’s ruling since it was done without notice to the community. Judge Lavin’s order was narrow in scope, and he did not rule on the merits of the situation only whether Exide was afforded due process. Judge Lavin’s ruling did not absolve the company of any environmental compliance requirements, he only ruled on the basis of irreparable harm to Exide. But what about irreparable harm to Exide’s neighbors?” said Crespo.
California Superior Court Lifts Top Toxic Regulator’s Suspension of Exide Technologies in Move Endangering Californians
SANTA MONICA, CA –Exide Technologies has won a temporary reprieve that prevents the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) from enforcing its shutdown of the company’s Vernon plant. That means the lead battery recycler can restart its operations, threatening Californians with renewed pollution of their air and water, Consumer Watchdog said today.
“This is what happens when regulators get in bed with polluters” said consumer advocate Liza Tucker. “The polluters get polluted too.” In three days of hearings before a Los Angeles administrative law judge in early June, Exide argued, among other things, that the toxics regulator let the facility to pollute for years and so implicitly sanctioned it. Exide said that meant the DTSC didn’t have the grounds to shut the plant down on April 24 on the basis of “imminent and substantial” endangerment of the public health.
“You can’t fault the DTSC for doing the right thing after so many years of doing the wrong thing,” said Tucker. She said the regulator will have to make that case in a hearing set before the judge on July 2.
Documents obtained by Consumer Watchdog, including studies commissioned by Exide and internal DTSC correspondence show that the DTSC knew that the lead battery recycler’s operations endangered the public, that lead and arsenic emissions were going into the air and accumulating at hazardous levels on the ground, and were washing away into the surrounding watershed.
The DTSC chose to act on the basis of air emissions and groundwater contamination, rather than on the basis of the accumulation of hazardous waste on the ground. Tucker said that was a tactical mistake. “The DTSC could have acted on the basis of hazardous waste accumulating on the ground and endangering the public health long ago,” said Tucker. “Shutting them down for that would have been a slam dunk.”