EXIDE VERNON BREAKING NEWS: UPDATED – Bankruptcy judge approves Exide and DTSC’s deal; For now*, homes can be tested for lead, County supervisors explore legal options
Exide Settlement with DTSC Limits (For Now)* Homes that Can Be Tested for Lead, County Supervisors Explore Legal OptionsÂ
Thursday, November 20, 2014
byÂ Sahra Sulaiman
Good news, good people of Maywood, Boyle Heights, and East L.A. who live within the limited assessment areas (see one, above)! The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) wants you to know that, per aÂ Stipulation and Order settlementÂ reached on November 6 withÂ embattled Vernon-based lead-acid battery recycling plant Exide, if Exide has contaminated your yard with lead, it can be cleaned up atÂ no costÂ to you! (emphasis theirs)
If your yard has been contaminated with lead, youâ€™re probably not too happy about it, given the connection of leadÂ to developmental delays and learning difficulties in children and a host of physical ailments. And the fact that, per the settlement, Exide hasÂ up to five yearsÂ to clean up your yard and home is probably not helping you feel any better about your situation. Nor is the knowledge that only two yards have been cleaned up since theÂ announcement in FebruaryÂ that almost all of the 39 yards and 2 schools tested in the first round of sampling had lead levels in excess of 80 parts per million (the level at which the DTSC requires a clean-up and the state recommends health-related testing).
If your yardÂ doesnâ€™tÂ fall within one of the two (rather small) assessment areas â€” the designated areas the South Coast Air Quality Management District studies have revealed â€œto be most likely impacted by Exideâ€™s emissionsâ€ â€” it could be aÂ veryÂ long time before your is soil tested or any contamination is cleaned up on Exideâ€™s dime.
According to theÂ settlement, some time in the next four and a half years, Exide must submit â€œa Residential Corrective Measures Study to address all properties impacted by Facility operations that were not investigated or remediated during the initial five-year periodâ€ or part ofÂ the recently approved Interim Measures Work Plan(IMWP) Exide drafted to guide its clean-up procedures.
Any contamination found on any additional properties, as best I can tell from the settlement, would need to be addressed within a 10-year period and paid for with funds set aside by Exide for that purpose (seeÂ pp. 11-12 for details; clarification on future remediation plans will follow next week).
Which is something that may not sound as reassuring as the DTSC hopes, given their official responses to public comments on the draft IMWP,Â released this past Wednesday, November 19thÂ (two weeksÂ afterÂ the settlement was made), and the particularly large emissions footprint Exide is estimated to have (below).
Members of surrounding communities who asked to have their properties tested but whose residences fell outside the designated assessment areas were told only that their addresses would be â€œretained as an alternative address to be sampledÂ shouldÂ additional information regarding the extent of lead beyond these two assessment areas be requiredâ€ (emphasis added).
No reference was made to the stipulations in the settlement agreement and both press releases andÂ other official documentsÂ (such as theÂ clean-up FAQ answers) released after the settlement reiterate that only those residing within assessment areas will be tested.
More unsettling still is news that, after the most recent round of soil sampling in the two assessment areas, all 62 of the samples that were tested (104 were taken, results on 42 samples are pending) had elevated lead concentrations.
Specifically,Â according to the DTSC, â€œ12 residential yards have one or more samples with lead levels that exceed 1,000 parts per million and 50 residential yards show lower levels of lead, but were still over DTSCâ€™s 80 parts per million clean-up.â€
Per the IMWP, Exide will first be required to address the conditions at the 12 most contaminated sites by removing the soil, doing dust monitoring, cleaning the interiors of the homes, and then restoring the yards. They will then move on to the other 50 sites, while continuing to reach out to the property owners within the assessment areas. (DTSC reports just over 200 owners have been contacted, but only half have responded thus far.)
As might be gleaned from the above, the Stipulation and Order settlement appears to have made few of the stakeholders happy.
Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), an organization which has actively battled to get authorities to address Exideâ€™s numerous violations over the better part of a decade or more,Â released a statement declaring their disappointmentÂ in the outcome. They argued that by not adequately engaging the affected communities on the settlement, DTSC was leaving families unprotected. Not only might the $9 million in funds set aside for community clean-ups be inadequate, they charged, but it was unacceptable that families within the limited assessment areas might be asked to wait as long as five years before contamination was identified and cleaned up from their yards. Meanwhile, those outside of the assessment areas are effectively denied any form of recourse for the time being.
County Supervisor Gloria Molina was also dissatisfied with the settlement, charging in herÂ motionÂ before the County Board of Supervisors last week that, given Exideâ€™s status as the stateâ€™s â€œworst lead polluterâ€ and DTSCâ€™s inability or lack of will to enforce egregious violations of environmental regulations, the Board look into the possibility of suing to shut Exide down.
According to KPCC, the County Board did vote â€œto give its top lawyer the authority to file a lawsuit against Exide Technologiesâ€ in a closed session this week.
What form that litigation will take, however, is as yet unclear.
Currently, the plant is idle â€” aside from internal clean-up and upgrade work â€” having been shut down in March.Â The DTSC is reviewing its third application for a formal operating permit and has until the end of 2015 to rule on whether Exide (finally) passes muster or will have to close its doors for good.
* * * *
For more information, please check out theÂ DTSCâ€™s webpage dedicated to Exide. For more on the specifics of the Stipulation and Order settlement, including the $38.6 million set aside for on-site clean-ups and plans for addressing other hazardous waste violations, please clickÂ hereÂ andÂ here.
*This post has been edited to reflect a clarification made by the DTSC that provisions were made in the Stipulation and Order agreement that Exide would be asked to address contamination outside the assessment areas. I will be speaking with DTSC on Monday about the specifics of these provisions, as they were unable to provide me with that information today.
DOW JONES DAILY BANKRUPTCY REVIEW
Judge Approves Deal for Exide Technologies’ California PlantÂ
A car-battery-dismantling plant outside Los Angeles could reopen after a bankruptcy judge approved a deal between its owner,Â Exide TechnologiesÂ Inc., and environmental regulators who accused it of violating pollution standards.
Judge Kevin Carey signed off on the company’s settlement with theÂ California Department of Toxic Substances ControlÂ during a court hearing on Thursday, saying the deal will help the company’s pursuit of a hazardous waste permit….(SUBCRIPTION REQUIRED)
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