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EXIDE VERNON BREAKING NEWS / MEDIA ROUNDUP: Angry residents urge state to shut down Exide smelter after high lead levels found in soil in nearby homes

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Angry residents confront state officials over Exide plant

Neighbors of the Vernon battery recycler urge the state to shut it down after the discovery of high lead levels in nearby homes.

 

By Jessica GarrisonMarch 19, 2014, 10:38 p.m.

Furious residents confronted state officials at a community meeting Wednesday night to discuss the high levels of lead found in the backyards of homes near a Vernon battery recycling plant.

“We’ve been hearing the same junk over and over and over,” said Robert Cabrales, an organizer with the environmental justice group Communities for a Better Environment. “When are we going to see cleanup in our communities?”

The meeting came one week after state officials announced that soil testing had revealed elevated levels of lead in the soil at homes and a park north and south of the Exide Technologies plant.

Officials with the State Department of Toxic Substances Control issued health warnings, telling people not to let children play in bare soil or eat leafy green vegetables grown in it. They also ordered additional testing of more homes, and told Exide to come up with a plan to protect small children and pregnant women living in places with elevated lead levels. Exide must file that plan with the state by Friday.

Initially, consultants working for Exide tested 19 homes in Boyle Heights and 20 in Maywood. Almost every home had levels of lead in the soil that exceeded 80 parts per million, the level at which California recommends further health-related evaluations. One home had samples above 580 parts per million.

State officials emphasized that those levels do not pose an acute risk for adults.

Exide officials released a statement Wednesday, in which they said they are committed to the community’s health and “working tirelessly with regulators.”

But the statement also noted that “there are numerous sources [of lead] in the heavily industrial corridor surrounding the Exide facility … which could contribute to higher levels of lead in soil.” Among them, Exide said, are freeway exhaust and lead paint in older homes.

Officials’ attempts to reassure residents that they are not in immediate danger were not well received by some at the meeting, nor was the suggestion that Exide might not be responsible.

Many residents implored regulators to shut the plant down, and some castigated them for not doing so already.

Terry Cano said that in her family, people have “passed away, are sick, have asthma…. When I hear you say it’s not an emergency, I beg to differ.”

Teresa Solario, 59, of Maywood added: “Don’t come here to tell us lies. You’re telling us to wash the children’s hands, and that’s enough?”

Exide has been the focus of intense attention from elected leaders, residents and officials since the South Coast Air Quality Management District found last year that arsenic emissions from the plant posed an elevated cancer risk to 110,000 people living nearby.

The plant has also been cited several times in recent years, often for exceeding permissible levels of lead.

The air district is now seeking to halt lead smelting operations at Exide until its air pollution systems are improved; Exide officials argue the plant should be allowed to stay open and that emissions have plummeted in recent months. A hearing board for the agency is taking testimony on the question.

Soil testing did not turn up any elevated levels of arsenic.

B. Timberlake, 68, of Bell had a simple question for regulators: “Why has it taken so many years to do soil testing for lead in people’s homes?”

Brian Johnson, deputy director in charge of enforcement for toxic substances control, paused before answering. “I wish I could change the past, but I cannot.” He added that a new administration is committed to making sure the community is protected.

jessica.garrison@latimes.com

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NBC 4 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

RESIDENTS DEMAND SHUTDOWN OF SO. CAL. BATTERY RECYCLING PLANT

State officials announced last week that elevated levels of lead were found in the soil of homes and schools surrounding the Exide battery recycling plant, but it has yet to confirm whether the plant is the source of the lead.
By Beverly White and Samia Khan | Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 | Updated 3:57 AM PDTView Comments (0) | Email | Print

Residents demanded that authorities remove a battery recycling plant from a community after health officials found elevated levels of lead in the ground. Beverly White reports from Vernon for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

Neighbors of the Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon made their demands heard at a packed community meeting Tuesday night, many urging authorities to shut down the facility.

The meeting at Resurrection Church was called after last week’s announcement by state officials that elevated levels of lead were discovered in the soil of 39 homes and two schools near the battery recycling plant.

“Be clear. Be specific! Shut down Exide immediately,” one resident said.

Homes, Schools Near SoCal Battery Plant Exposed to Elevated Lead Levels
The state has yet to confirm whether the battery recycler, located at 2700 S. Indiana St., is the source of the lead.

Until then, scientists are urging pregnant women to avoid contact with soil and children who play in the dirt to wash their hands.

Residents shared stories of health problems at Tuesday’s meeting.

“My mother is gone. My father is ill. I’m ill. I won’t grow to see my children, I can’t have grandchildren because my children are infertile,” resident Terry Cano said.

“Right now, I know two people dying of cancer and one just died last year,” another resident said.

Exide’s spokeswoman Vanessa Rodriguez believes it’s too early to blame the battery plant, which has been in the Vernon community for nearly a century.

Task Force to Fight Battery Plant Pollution
“It is important to understand that the city of Vernon has always been zoned for very heavy industrial uses and certainly that neighborhood has very many industries,” Rodriguez said.

Exide officials said the company is working with the Department of Toxic Substances Control to protect public health and says it’s committed to invest more than $5 million over the next two years to upgrade the Vernon battery recycling facility.

The state’s primary concern is the health of the residents.

“The question is not who came first. But all of our communities need to be protected. Regardless of who came first,” said DTSC representative Brian Johnson.

The LA County of Public Health and the California DTSC will offer free confidential blood testing for lead to community residents beginning April 7. The screenings will be offered through September. A community meeting will be held on Thursday, Apr. 3 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel in Commerce for residents who want to learn about the Blood Lead Screening Program and upcoming environmental assessments.

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CBS LOS ANGELES

EXIDE PLANT UNDER FIRE AGAIN OVER HEALTH HAZARDS

March 19, 2014 10:45 PM

BOYLE HEIGHTS (CBSLA.com) — A battery recycling plant in Vernon linked to environmental health hazards is under fire again.

KCAL9′s Dave Bryan reports residents demanded answers from Exide Technologies officials Wednesday night at a community forum held to discuss recent results of soil testing that found elevated lead levels in yards near the Exide plant.

State officials tried to update the community on what’s being done to deal with elevated lead levels in the soil. But the audience was unsatisfied with their answers, with attendees insisting to know why it’s taken so long for something to be done and why Exide hasn’t been shut down.

“People are dying. We see this every day. We are here to say when is for you enough?” one woman asked during the forum at the Resurrection Catholic Church. “How many people does it take for you to actually shut down this company?”

Residents of Boyle Heights, Maywood and other communities affected by toxic pollution reacted decisively, making clear nothing short of ceasing the plant’s operations would be acceptable.

State officials from the Department of Toxic Substances Control told the audience the elevated levels of lead are a concern, but not an emergency.
The department said Exide will have to eliminate exposure for the most vulnerable residents in affected areas – pregnant women and children – and will have to do more detailed follow-up testing in a wider region than before.

They also suggested residents in the affected areas take precautions.

“Just wash your hands when you come in from the front yard. Wash your children’s hands when they play in the yard,” Brian Johnson, Deputy Director of the Hazardous Waste Management Program, said.

Longtime Boyle Heights residents branded the remarks insulting.

“We know that. We’re not ignorant. We weren’t – I mean – we have some education here. And yet, they come in and say, well, you know, you need to wash your hands now. But it’s not dangerous,” one woman said.

An Exide spokeswoman said the company is doing everything it can to comply with state regulations.

“We are in compliance with all regulations, and, in fact, a December 2013 report by the AQMD staff actually showed that Exide had reduced all arsenic emissions by 95 percent,” she said.

The next step in the process is expected to come Friday when Exide is required to give its plan for how it will deal with the elevated lead levels to state health officials, who will then rule on what the following steps will be.

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ABC LOS ANGELES

RESIDENTS DEMAND EXIDE TECHNOLOGIES BE SHUT DOWN OVER LEAD CONCERNS

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A public meeting dealing with lead contamination that surrounds the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant was held in East Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. (KABC Photo)

Rudabeh Shahbazi

EAST LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Emotions ran high Wednesday night at a public meeting dealing with lead contamination that surrounds the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon.

The concern here is that the densely populated neighborhoods around the Exide plant have been in danger for years. Residents are demanding that the plant be shut down.

Residents from Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles voiced concerns about their safety after several soil samples came back with levels of lead the EPA says are concerning.

“We have a difficult time trusting you. We don’t trust government first, and now we don’t trust you personally,” said Teresa Marcus of Boyle Heights.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control says the lead in the soil is coming from Exide Technologies, which recycles batteries.

“I think Exide lagged in investing in this plant. I know they declared bankruptcy…so I don’t know that they had the capitol to invest in the way that we would want them to to minimize any potential impacts,” said Brian Johnson with the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Vanessa Rodriguez, an Exide spokeswoman, says the company is in compliance with health department standards and does a service by recycling.

“Not a lot to fear here. We are part of the community. We want to be part of the solution and have been working diligently with regulators up and down the state to ensure and facilitate that we stay in compliance,” said Rodriguez.

The EPA has ordered Exide to submit a plan by Friday explaining how it plans to minimize or eliminate the lead exposure.

Related Content
STORY: Lead found in soil at homes, school in Vernon
But residents say the meeting wasn’t enough and that they want Exide out of the neighborhood altogether.

“This is tiring. I’ve been here three times and I don’t see them doing anything,” said Monica Ajiz of Boyle Heights.

The California EPA says it is considering putting a layer of soil or gravel over the affected areas for a short-term solution. They stress that at this point this is not considered a public health emergency, but they do think more testing needs to be done and they are concerned.

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