EXIDE VERNON BREAKING NEWS: California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control announces additional requirements on Exide lead smelter
The deadline to file objections is 4 p.m. EST, on October 29.
The hearing with the Bankruptcy Court judge is set for 3 p.m. EST, November 5.
CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
DEPARTMENT OF TOXIC SUBSTANCES CONTROL
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Contact: Sanford (Sandy) Nax
October 7, 2013 916-708-4303
DTSC announces additional requirements on Exide plant
The Department of Toxic Substances Control today took aggressive steps to ensure that the Exide battery recycling facility in Vernon, CA operates safely and in a manner that protects the health of the community.
The Department announced that it reached agreement with Exide Technologies Inc. (“Exide”) for the issuance of a Stipulation and Order (“Order”) that addresses the two central concerns identified in its April 2013 order to suspend Exide’s operations. Those are the risks to health posed by the facility’s arsenic emissions to air, and the use of deteriorated pipes that leaked water potentially contaminated with hazardous wastes into soil below the facility.
Importantly, the Order includes requirements that go beyond DTSC’s initial concerns. These requirements are designed to identify potential impacts the facility may have had on surrounding communities.
“The Order requires critical and expedited improvements in the plant that will reduce emissions from their operation. It also provides an opportunity for Exide to demonstrate its commitment to investigating, in a very transparent process, potential impacts on the community,” said Brian Johnson, Deputy Director of DTSC’s Hazardous Waste Program.
The Order contains enforceable timelines and sets aside $7.7 million to pay for the following additional requirements:
Installation of improvements to bring down arsenic emissions
Replacement of an antiquated piping system
Blood lead level testing for nearby residents that will be conducted by the Los Angeles County of Public Health using LACPDPH’s protocols
Dust and soil sampling around the facility and into the surrounding community.
The blood lead testing and the soil sampling go beyond the requirements of the order that suspended Exide’s operations in April in that they will help determine whether lead emitted from Exide’s operations has impacted the community.
The order announced today is the result of discussions between Exide and the Department, and Exide must obtain permission from the bankruptcy judge to implement it. The Order would resolve the suspension issued in April. The bankruptcy court is not expected to consider the matter until Nov. 5, 2013, at the earliest.
Since April, Exide has initiated improvements designed to reduce the company’s impact on the surrounding communities. These include a temporary system to address the leaking water and controls on arsenic emissions.
“We are encouraged by Exide’s efforts to respond to our concerns, but this is not the end of our efforts to address the conditions at the Exide facility,” Johnson said. “While this resolves the Order for Temporary Suspension, we are not walking away. We fully expect them to pay attention to the community and to the regulatory agencies, and we expect a prompt response to our requests to address any concern we raise.”
DTSC is working closely with both the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to ensure that Exide’s operation is monitored on an almost daily basis.
“We are very aware of the intensity of the community’s concerns about the safety of this plant and are confident that this Order, along with SCAQMD’s and LA County Health Department’s oversight will help demonstrate to the community that protection of their health and safety are paramount to our agencies” said Johnson. “DTSC is fully prepared to exercise its authority to keep this plant in compliance, up to and including closing the plant if warranted, and nothing in this agreement precludes us from doing that,” he added.
For additional information, click here.
The Mission of DTSC is to protect California’s people and environment from harmful effects of toxic substances by restoring contaminated properties, identifying and promoting safer ingredients in consumer products, and ensuring stewardship through enforcement, regulation and pollution prevention.
CLICK HERE TO READY EXIDE’S MOTION TO BANKRUPTCY COURT TO AUTHORIZE AND APPROVE STIPULATION AGREEMENT IT REACHED WITH THE DTSC
BOYLE HEIGHTS BEAT
Exide reaches deal with state regulators to remain open
By Jessica Perez on October 8, 2013
Officials at Exide Technolgies reached an agreement with the Department of Toxic Substances Control Monday that will allow the Vernon battery recycling giant to remain open.The company, accused of releasing harmful toxins into the air, posing a public health risk to over 110,000 neighboring residents, was ordered to set aside $7.7 million to improve and lower its arsenic emissions.
The monies will go towards replacement of their current piping system, dust and soil sampling around the facility and in the surrounding community, blood lead level testing for nearby residents and other improvements.
“We are encouraged by Exide’s efforts to respond to our concerns, but this is not the end of our efforts to address the conditions at the Exide facility,” said Brian Johnson, Deputy Director of DTSC’s Hazardous Waste Program in a press release. The release goes on to explain that the order includes requirements that go beyond DTSC’s initial concerns.
Monday’s order resolves the suspension issued by DTSC in April, however, Exide must obtain permission from the bankruptcy judge to implement it the deal.
A town hall meeting hosted by state Sen. Kevin De Leon will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight Resurrection Church, 3324 Opal St., Los Angeles, CA 90023.
Representatives from the Department of Toxic Substance Control, the Air Quality Monitoring District, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the L.A. County Public Health Department will join the community at the meeting.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
California reaches deal with Vernon battery recycler
Exide’s plant in Vernon is shown. Exide has agreed to set aside $7.7 million to pay for, among other things, new filters to lower its arsenic emissions and new piping for a stormwater system. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times / September 9, 2013)
State regulators have reached a deal with a Vernon battery recycler accused of toxic air emissions that may have threatened the health of more than 100,000 people, company and state officials said Monday.
Exide Technologies has agreed to set aside $7.7 million to pay for new filters to lower its arsenic emissions and new piping for a stormwater system.
The money will also fund previously announced tests for lead and arsenic in the soil and dust in the neighborhood around the plant, as well as voluntary blood tests made available to a quarter of a million people who might have been affected by emissions.
The deal means the state Department of Toxics Substances Control will drop its effort to temporarily close the plant, which officials moved to do in March after reports that elevated arsenic emissions posed an increased cancer risk to 110,000 people.
Because Exide filed for bankruptcy this spring, the plan still must be approved by a judge in that case.
“We continue to strive to make our Vernon plant a premiere recycling facility and consider the health and safety of the community and our workforce a top priority,” Robert M. Caruso, Exide’s chief executive said in a statement. “Exide has taken aggressive steps to install new equipment at the plant and those efforts have paid off in substantially reducing emissions.”
Brian Johnson, the deputy director of the state’s Hazardous Waste Program, called the agreement “a very productive first step. … This is a facility with a very checkered past, and we are aware of that past and have crafted our inspection and enforcement presence to make … sure they are operating in compliance, and if they are not, then we will take those appropriate steps.”
He added: “Will it satisfy everyone in the community? I doubt it. But I think it will provide a pretty solid foundation.”
Residents and elected leaders have been calling for the plant’s closure since the elevated cancer risk was revealed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District this spring.
Less Patience with Exide
PUBLICADO: Oct, 9, 2013 12:01 am EST
The decision by state authorities to keep Exide’s battery recycling plant open in Vernon is most disheartening. The money requested of it in exchange for maintaining its operations does not resolve the pollution problem that may be harming the residents right now.
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control reached an agreement with Exide a few days ago, allowing the plant to continue operating if the company sets aside 7.7 million dollars to clean up pollution causing problems. The money will cover the cost of offering blood tests for residents of the surrounding areas to detect lead, as well as other environmental tests.
We find this decision outrageous and disgraceful, given the plant’s long history of pollutant emissions. As we have stated in the past, shutting it down is the best solution. The patience of California’s environmental authorities with this plant is inexplicable, and appears to be unlimited.
Exide has been operating in Vernon for more than a decade with “interim status,” given that it is unable to obtain a regular permit. The most recent official monitoring of its pollutants took place less than a month ago. Prior to that, the plant had been closed for some time, since its contamination levels led the local air quality management district to find that the plant posed a high cancer risk for the residents.
It was therefore proposed that, starting in October, Los Angeles County would offer voluntary blood tests to residents. Nonetheless, well into the month, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is not yet clear on how to do the testing. This reflects poorly on the priority bring placed by the county’s health authority on this issue.
It is a mistake to keep a plant with Exide’s history open. The state’s decision to do so is a regrettable choice that harms the interests and health of the residents.
Is the Price of Exide’s Vernon Battery Plant Pollution Just $7.7 Million?
Exide Technologies has been battling state regulators and residents living near its battery recycling plant in the densely populated Los Angeles County city of Vernon since at least 2007. The company has been accused of poisoning more than 100,000 people, been temporarily shut down, been forced to test the surrounding area for arsenic and lead contaminants and compelled to make repairs to its equipment.
On Monday, Exide reached an agreement with the state to pay $7.7 million over two years for upgrades to its plant and blood tests for its neighbors, and in exchange the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) will stop trying to shut the place down.
On Tuesday, critics of Exide and state regulators, including Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and two state senators, complained bitterly about how the residents were being treated. According to the Los Angeles Times, lawmakers clapped along while the audience rhythmically chanted, “Shut it down” at a community meeting attended by DTSC Director Debbie Raphael and other regulators.
The Exide plant, like many polluting facilities in the state, can’t have its permit to operate revoked because it doesn’t have one. The plant has operated under “interim status” for decades under a permitting system that the DTSC admits (pdf) is regarded with “significant dissatisfaction.” It is one of the complaints heard from those who think the agency favors corporate interests over the public welfare.
Residents asked if Exide, one of the world’s largest battery recyclers, should have spent that money years ago when problems were first detected, and wondered if it is nearly enough. The deal is a bit more complicated now because Exide filed for bankruptcy in the spring and any agreement has to be approved by a bankruptcy judge. The judge is not expected to hear the case before November 5.
Exide made some repairs to its plant after the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) ordered the company to cut its lead emissions in 2008, following years of complaints from neighbors. Lead remained the focus of complaints about the company until this spring when a trail of arsenic contamination, first detected in 2010, led back to the Exide plant two years later.
Exposure to lead causes permanent brain damage and about half a million American children have too much of it in their system. Lead lowers IQs, causes learning disabilities and has been linked to criminal behavior. It has also been linked to stunted growth, seizures and a range of maladies. Needless to say, arsenic isn’t any better. It is notoriously poisonous and has been linked to cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases and diabetes.
The DTSC ordered Exide to temporarily suspend operations in the spring after the AQMD told the company it had to reduce its arsenic emissions and begin an outreach program to explain the plant’s problems to neighbors. The AQMD said the plant posed an elevated cancer risk to 110,000 nearby residents.
Exide appealed the decision to the Los Angeles County Superior Court and received a temporary reprieve pending a hearing. The AQMD required Exide to reduce its smelting plant production by 15%, which it did in September. But new testing weeks later found it still in violation of pollution limits.
The plant, which has been in operation since 1922, currently melts down up to 40,000 batteries a day. The state’s Toxic Hot Spots program requires sources of pollution to notify the public if the calculated health risk to humans is 10 in 1 million or more. If the risk is 25 in 1 million or more, the facility has three years to come up with a solution. Exide’s calculated risk is 156 in 1 million.
The money from Exide will be used to install new air filters and piping for a storm water system, and for tests for lead and arsenic in soil and dust.
A statement from Exide’s CEO Robert M. Caruso sought to reassure everyone that the situation was under control and the neighborhood’s welfare was the company’s chief concern. “We continue to strive to make our Vernon plant a premiere recycling facility and consider the health and safety of the community and our workforce a top priority,” he wrote.