CA, California, Exide Vernon, Exide's Negative Impact on Other Communities, Lastest News

EXIDE VERNON BREAKING NEWS: CBS Los Angeles investigation: Public documents show hazardous waste from Exide Vernon lead smelter repeatedly spilled onto highways and into storm drains that feed Los Angeles River

In a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Exide states the company is under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury investigating potential criminal violations in its transportation of hazardous waste and air emissions.


CBS2 Investigation: Public Documents Show Hazardous Waste From Exide Plant Spilled Onto Highways, Into Storm Drains


VERNON ( — While dozens of homeowners near the Exide battery plant wait for test results from the soil surrounding their homes, a CBS2 investigation has uncovered evidence of hazardous waste spilling onto public highways and into storm drains that feed the L.A. River.

A sample of the soil surrounding 39 homes near the Exide Corp. plant in the 2700 block of South Indiana Avenue tested positive for lead contamination earlier this year, prompting the Department of Toxic Substances Control to order cleanup.


CBS2’s Randy Paige has uncovered public documents that tell a much bigger story, however, including evidence of contamination in the streets and sidewalks surrounding the plant, contamination reaching into the storm drains that lead to the L.A. River and contamination leaking off the back of trucks carrying hazardous waste onto public streets.

Among the findings, the CHP stopped a truck carrying contaminated waste from Exide in 2013 leaking hazardous waste onto the roadway.

A note, handwritten by a DTSC inspector, states: “Leaking from the containers while on public roads is an ongoing problem and… needs to be addressed immediately.”

In Sacramento, the DTSC’s Chief of Enforcement Paul Kewin says his agency realized the trailers had been leaking for years.

“I can’t explain how that got past us,” Kewin said, adding that trailers have been redesigned to prevent leaks.

DTSC inspection reports also reveal lead contamination in the area surrounding the plant continued for more than a decade.

Another notice dated October 2004 orders Exide to “take emergency measures to limit public exposure from lead contaminated sediment in the flood control channel” that empties into the L.A. River.

The acceptable limit is 80 milligrams of lead. One sample contained more than 56,000 milligrams, according to the notice.

Four years later in 2008, the DTSC ordered corrective action after “significant contamination was identified” that represents “immediate and potential threats to human health.”

In August of this year, the DTSC found 35 percent of the samples taken in the public rights of way and drainage systems reached levels requiring an emergency response.

In Sacramento, DTSC Chief of Permitting Rizgar Ghazi was asked how the public can believe the agency is doing its job to regulate the Exide facility.

“That’s a very good question; it’s a matter of trust. And I only can answer that question… by demonstrating what we’re doing now and what we’re going to be doing from now on,” Ghazi said.

The DTSC has forced Exide to temporarily shut down for failure to control its emissions and to clean up contaminated homes, he added.

Consumer watchdog Liza Tucker says the agency’s track record speaks for itself.

“We have a regulator who, through a combination of clear ineptitude, bias toward industry and reckless disregard for human health, (that) has created a monster,” she said. “I want to cry. We are damaging the brains of our future generations.”

At UCLA’s School of Public Health, professor Hilary Godwin says she has “genuine concerns about the well-being of the children in that neighborhood,” as well as those surrounding.

“As you’re driving down the road, that stuff that’s leaking can get aerosolized and incorporated into the air and you can breathe it in,” she said.

Lesly Baltazar’s family home, where she has resided for all of her 15 years, is directly in the path of what the Air Quality Management District calls high levels of lead emissions from the Exide technologies plant. They’re waiting on results of tests on their home.

Asked if she worried about her health, Baltazar responded: “Yes, and especially my family’s.”

Exide declined to provide a comment for CBS2’s story.

In a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Exide states the company is under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury investigating potential criminal violations in its transportation of hazardous waste and air emissions.



Exide Hazardous Waste Dripped Onto Roads From Trucks, Records Show

Hazardous waste from an embattled Vernon battery recycler dripped from tractor-trailers onto public roadways last year, according to recently released public documents in which a state environmental inspector called the leaks an “on-going problem” that “needs to be addressed immediately.”

The leaks of acid- and lead-tainted liquid could be an important piece of a criminal investigation of Exide Technologies by a federal grand jury. In a financial disclosure in August, the Milton, Ga.-based company reported that it had received a subpoena requesting “documents relating to materials transportation and air emissions” from its Vernon plant.

California expands lead soil testing area near Exide plant in Vernon
Tony Barboza
Spills were observed by state inspectors at the Vernon facility and by the California Highway Patrol, which last summer stopped a dripping tractor-trailer transporting acid battery waste from the Exide plant at a weigh station off Interstate 5 in Castaic, government records show.

The newly revealed problems are detailed in a series of California Department of Toxic Substances Control inspection reports and other public documents that were first reported by KCBS-TV, Channel 2.

Exide declined to comment on the issues raised in the documents because they were related to the grand jury investigation, said spokeswoman Vanessa Rodriguez.

The facility, which was idled in March and is about five miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, has been under fire from community groups in recent years. Air quality regulators have cited Exide for emitting too much lead and arsenic, saying last year that the plant posed a health risk to more than 100,000 residents. State toxic waste regulators blame the plant’s emissions for elevated levels of lead in the soil of dozens of homes in nearby Boyle Heights and Maywood.

On Aug. 10, 2013, during a stop on northbound Interstate 5 in Castaic, officers discovered battery acid leaking from a tractor-trailer onto the asphalt, according to a CHP incident report. The vehicle, owned by Lutrel Trucking Inc., was transporting plastic chips from the casings of crushed auto batteries to KW Plastics, a recycling facility in Bakersfield. Officers called the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s hazardous materials division to clean up the spill.

Three days later, on Aug. 13, 2013, Department of Toxic Substances Control staff inspected the Exide facility in Vernon and found trailers storing those chips were leaking liquid with hazardous levels of lead, the agency’s records show.

After finding similar problems at several more on-site inspections, state regulators in October 2013 cited Exide for three hazardous waste violations, directed the facility to take corrective action and to “store hazardous waste plastic chips in containers that do not leak.”

Though it is not clear when it was written, a handwritten note in the state’s citation also mentioned the trailer that CHP stopped on the interstate.

“DTSC is concerned that leaking from the containers while on public roads is an on-going problem, and this issue needs to be addressed immediately,” the note said. “Leaking of hazardous waste is considered illegal disposal.”

In a written response to questions from The Times, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control said it discovered the leaking trailers at the Vernon facility in August 2013 and that the CHP report from Interstate 5 that same month was the only on-road incident the agency was aware of.

“Contamination levels of the release did not pose a public health risk,” the agency’s statement said. “There was no impact on the surrounding community or the environment.”

The agency said the problem stemmed from a broken dryer the company had used to dry plastic chips from used battery casings, which are washed to remove lead and other hazardous waste.

“The Department will not allow Exide to transport chips in that type of trailer in the future,” the agency’s statement said, adding that it was reviewing a modification to its hazardous waste permit that would solve the problem by allowing the company to replace the broken dryer.

The department has for decades allowed the Exide facility in Vernon to operate with only a temporary permit, though a new state law requires the facility to obtain a full permit by the end of next year or be shut down.

The plant was idled because it could not meet strict new arsenic emissions rules adopted by local air quality officials in January. It has operated since 1922 and was taken over in 2000 by Exide, one of the world’s largest producers of lead acid batteries. Exide filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year.

Msgr. John Moretta of Resurrection Catholic Church in Boyle Heights, whose parishioners have demanded the plant’s permanent closure, called the latest development “another sign of the disrespect that Exide has exercised over the years as a bad neighbor.”

Leaking trailers are not a new problem at the facility, state records show.

A 1990 report that California regulators submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that samples collected from loads shipped from the Vernon facility, then operated by the firm GNB, “found hazardous levels of lead leaking onto Interstate 5.”

Twitter: @tonybarboza


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