Lastest News

SCAQMD CALIFORNIA BREAKING NEWS: Agency orders RSR-owned Quemetco lead smelter to perform health risk study after source test shows elevated levels of arsenic emissions

“Quemetco has been held up by the district as how a responsible company is supposed to operate. If they can’t meet the arsenic standards, you have to question whether either of these companies should be allowed to continue to operate,” said David Pettit, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Arsenic levels at second battery recycler draw concerns

Quemetco, based in the City of Industry, has been ordered to perform a health risk study after tests showed elevated arsenic emissions.

By Jessica GarrisonDecember 18, 2013, 9:58 p.m.

Amid an outcry over arsenic emissions from a Vernon battery recycler, the South Coast Air Quality Management District is now raising concerns about emissions from the other battery recycler in Southern California.

Officials with the air district earlier this month ordered City of Industry-based Quemetco, one of two battery recyclers west of the Rocky Mountains, to perform a health risk study of its operations after a source test in November showed elevated arsenic emissions.

The issue at Quemetco comes amid a fierce public outcry over emissions from Exide Technologies in Vernon.

Air district officials released a health risk assessment earlier this year that found that emissions from Exide were posing an elevated cancer risk to 110,000 people because of arsenic. The plant has also been cited several times in recent years for exceeding permissible levels of lead.

This fall, the air district petitioned its hearing board to temporarily shut down Exide until the recycler can control its emissions. Exide has contested the petition and argued that arsenic emissions have plummeted.

Exide’s emission troubles have outraged elected officials and residents in southeast Los Angeles County, who have pushed regulators to take forceful action.

In numerous public meetings this summer and fall, officials and residents have also urged that Exide be forced to adopt the same anti-pollution technology as Quemetco, which uses a so-called Wet Electrostatic Precipitator system that officials believed dramatically reduced emissions.

“Quemetco has been held up by the district as how a responsible company is supposed to operate. If they can’t meet the arsenic standards, you have to question whether either of these companies should be allowed to continue to operate,” said David Pettit, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The health risks of Quemetco’s emissions won’t be known for some time. The company has 150 days to submit the health risk assessment, and the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment then has several months to review it.

In a statement, John A. De Paul, Quemetco’s senior vice president, said the company will “comply fully with the requirement to conduct a health risk assessment for the facility. Quemetco is confident that the results of that assessment will satisfy any concerns AQMD may have regarding emissions from the facility.”

He added that the company supports the air district “in their ongoing effort to lower emissions of hazardous air pollutants.”




Second battery recycling plant emitting more arsenic

By Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Posted: |

INDUSTRY –  Quemetco Inc., a lead-acid battery recycler located near the residential communities of La Puente and Hacienda Heights, was ordered to perform an extensive health assessment after air quality inspectors found the plant was spewing elevated levels of arsenic into the air.

The company must reduce its cancer risk below 25 parts per million or face stricter controls, according to a letter from Elaine Chang, South Coast Air Quality Management District deputy executive officer to Scott Bevans of Quemetco Inc. dated Dec. 10.

The recent violation from the Industry-based plant comes on the heels of a SCAQMD order to Exide Technologies in Vernon to shut down operations unless toxic air emissions are dramatically reduced. The SCAQMD Hearing Board opened a hearing on the abatement order last week at Cal State Los Angeles. Hearings on the Exide plant have been continued to Jan. 7.

Exide and Quemetco are the only two battery recycling plants in Southern California, according to the SCAQMD.

Exide takes car and marine batteries made of lead and acid and takes them apart. The materials are tossed into a smelter where lead ingots are produced and either sold, or used to make new vehicle batteries. Exide’s operation recycles between 23,000 and 41,000 automobile batteries a day, according to the SCAQMD.

Quemetco has had its problems with the air pollution agency, racking up five violations from the SCAQMD since 2005.

However, it plans to fully comply with the air district’s order, said Chris Bryant, Washington D.C.-based attorney for Quemetco and its parent company, RSR Corp.

“The company will be reconducting a health risk assessment to assuage any concerns the AQMD may have about the arsenic emissions,” Bryant said Friday. The Industry plant is located at 720 S. 7th Ave., near Salt Lake Avenue.

Quemetco is a lead smelting company and is part of RSR, which operates other lead smelters, including plants in Indiana and New York. The 2011 Toxic Release Inventory from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranked the company as the sixth largest emitter of toxic emissions in California. In Southern California, it trailed only Chevron Products in El Segundo. Quemetco released 1,576,634 pounds of toxics in 2011, the report says.

Lead smelting involves heating up the mixture and using chemicals to free the element. This produces toxic byproducts, including inorganic arsenic, a carcinogen that is “strongly associated” with lung cancer if inhaled, and bladder, liver and skin cancer if ingested, according to the EPA.

SCAQMD inspectors checked the smokestacks on Nov. 22 and found arsenic emissions had increased since the last source test, said Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the four-county anti-smog agency. Atwood declined to say how large of an increase.

“But it had increased enough that we felt they were going to exceed thresholds in our Rule 1401 of a 10 in 1 million cancer risk, that’s the threshold for notifying the public,” he said.

If the company’s new health risk assessment shows a cancer risk for arsenic of 25 in 1 million or higher, it will be subject to additional emission controls, he said.

The company has until May to complete the new health risk assessment. Atwood said the SCAQMD did not have any indication the company would not comply with the requirement, which originated in 1987 under what’s known as the state toxic hot spots law. “We’re confident their concerns will be alleviated,” Bryant said.

Quemetco will have a greater chance at compliance because it has been using a Wet Electrostatic Precipitator, advanced emissions control technology, and Exide does not, Atwood said. Bryant said the device has been in operation at the Industry plant for at least four years.

Nonetheless, the SCAQMD is preparing a new rule that will lower the cap on emissions of arsenic, as well as benzene and 1,3-butadiene, for all battery recycling plants in the South Coast Air Basin. The SCAQMD Governing Board will consider the amended Rule 1420.1 on Jan. 10, Atwood said.

History of violations: Quemetco Inc.

1995: Ordered to clean contaminated soil at Industry plant by state Department of Toxic Substances Control

1998: Cited by SCAQMD for exceeding allowance for lead

1998: Plant emits 2.6 million pounds of toxic waste, according to U.S. EPA Toxic Release Inventory (1996 data)

2000: Proposition 65 warnings indicate arsenic and lead emissions spread into La Puente, Industry and Hacienda Heights

2006: Highest cancer burden of any business in the SCAQMD jurisdiction. Cancer risk is due to emissions of arsenic, 1,3-butadiene, cadmium and hexavalent chromium

2006: Quemetco reports a cancer risk of 22 in 1 million, down from 33 in 1 million in 2000.

2011: Ranked No. 6 out of Top Ten facilities for toxic releases in California, according to EPA.

2012: SCAQMD violation for failing to reconcile third and fourth quarter emissions of nitrogen oxides, a smog-forming emission, and for exceeding allowances from the 2010 compliance year.

2013: Source test from Nov. 22 reveals levels of arsenic higher than previous year. Company ordered to prepare a health risk assessment using higher emissions rates.

Source: EPA, SCAQMD, San Gabriel Valley Tribune archives

 Reach the author at



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,