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EXIDE VERNON – 2014 IN REVIEW: Pollution at Exide tops year’s list of stories


2014 IN REVIEW: Pollution at Exide tops year’s list of stories

There Exide Technology, which operates a battery-recycling plant, has been under fire for most of the last two years for violating state standards on emissions.
In the most recent news regarding Exide, several company executives and the manager of the Vernon plant were named separate lawsuits brought by dozens of residents who allege they and their children were exposed to lead, arsenic and other contaminants.
An Exide representative could not be immediately reached for comment on the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuits filed against James Bloch, Exide’s CEO; Phillip Damaska, the company’s CFO; Ed Mopas, the firm’s environmental manager; John Hogarth, the plant manager; and R. Paul Hirt Jr., Exide’s president.
The allegations include negligence, trespass and absolute liability for ultra hazardous activity.
One lawsuit was filed by adult plaintiffs and the other on behalf of numerous children. In each case, the plaintiffs seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of lead exposure, according to the suits, which allege the Exide plant is responsible for health problems ranging from kidney dysfunction to cancer and learning disabilities.
In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring the Department of Toxic Substances Control to either issue a permanent permit or permanently shut the plant down by the end of 2015.
The Exide plant has been closed since mid-March while management works to upgrade pollution controls and meet other regulatory requirements.
A federal grand jury also is investigating the plant for possible criminal charges, according to a securities filing obtained in August with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Exide and “certain unidentified individuals” are targets of the investigation being conducted by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, the SEC filing said.
The company stated in the document that it will cooperate with the investigation.
“We cannot estimate the amount or range of loss, if any, in this matter, as such analysis would depend on facts and law that are not yet fully developed or resolved,” Exide officials said in their filing.
Exide filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year.
The company announced Aug. 14 it had issued layoff notices to about 65 employees.
A toxic threat strike team established by the county identified 39 homes in Boyle Heights and Maywood where elevated levels of lead were found in yards.
The plant — in operation since 1922 — recycles about 25,000 batteries daily, a function Exide calls critical to environmental sustainability. The company has been under fire from state and local regulators for more than a year.
The plant was forced to temporarily close in 2013 due to arsenic emissions, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District sued the company in January, alleging numerous air quality violations.
In May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that the plant violated federal limits on lead emissions on more than 30 occasions between September 2013 and this past April.

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