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EXIDE MUNCIE BREAKING NEWS: Exide agrees to settle lawsuit brought by U.S. and State of Indiana alleging violations of the Clean Air Act at Muncie smelter; Exide agrees to spend $3.9 million to install new pollution control equipment and to pay civil penalty of $820,000

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. and Indiana Settle Clean Air Act Case with Exide’s Muncie Smelter to Reduce Lead Emissions

Release Date: 03/16/2015
Contact Information: Phillippa Cannon, 312-353-6218, cannon.phillippa@epa.gov (media only)

Chicago (March 16, 2015) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that Exide Technologies has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the United States and the State of Indiana alleging Clean Air Act violations at the company’s lead smelter in Muncie, Indiana. Exide Technologies has agreed to spend over $3.9 million to install state-of-the-art pollution control equipment to reduce harmful air pollution from the facility. The settlement will resolve claims that the facility’s failure to comply with national emission standards resulted in the release of excess lead in an area that does not meet the federal health-based air quality standard for lead.

“This settlement will protect Muncie residents from excess lead emissions from the Exide Technologies smelter and prevent future violations of the Clean Air Act,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman. “Exposure to lead can impair children’s health and their ability to learn.”

“Addressing the complicated environmental and legal issues here required a carefully structured settlement agreement with this employer so that the public and nearby residents can be protected into the future. My office and our client the Indiana Department of Environmental Management worked closely with our colleagues at EPA in successfully bringing this case to a conclusion,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, whose office represented IDEM in court as the state government’s lawyer. 

EPA expects that the actions required by the settlement will reduce harmful emissions of lead, particulate matter (soot), total hydrocarbons and dioxin/furans. The settlement also requires the company to pay a civil penalty of $820,000.  

Lead and soot, the predominant pollutants emitted from secondary lead smelters, have numerous adverse effects on human health. Lead can affect almost every organ in the body, but is most detrimental to the nervous system. For children, lead exposure can result in permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to behavior and learning problems, lower IQ, hearing problems, slowed growth and anemia. In adults, lead affects the nervous and cardiovascular systems, and causes decreased kidney function. Soot contributes to irritation of the airways, coughing and difficulty breathing, decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, irregular heartbeat, nonfatal heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

The settlement was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. The consent decree will be available for review at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

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THE STAR PRESS

Exide fined $820,000 for Muncie pollution

Exide Technologies has agreed to pay an $820,000 civil penalty to settle a lawsuit accusing it of violating the Clean Air Act at its Muncie lead smelter, which recycles millions of lead-acid automotive, truck and other batteries.

The violations resulted in increased emissions of lead and particulate matter (soot), and might have resulted in increased emissions of total hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds and dioxin/furans, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“This settlement will protect Muncie residents from excess lead emissions … and prevent future violations of the Clean Air Act,” Susan Hedman, administrator of EPA’s Great Lakes region, said in a prepared statement. “Exposure to lead can impair children’s health and their ability to learn.”

The settlement in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis also requires Exide to spend $4 million to install state-of-the art pollution control equipment at the facility in the southside Industria Centre.

Exide announced last week that it would immediately move to close its lead-acid battery recycling facility in Vernon, Calif., under the terms of a non-prosecution agreement reached with federal prosecutors in California to settle a criminal investigation of the company.

One of the world’s largest producers and recyclers of lead-acid batteries, Exide is continuing to take steps to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

While recycling hazardous lead-acid automotive batteries keeps them from being dumped in landfills, illegally dumped or shipped to other countries where regulations are lacking, Exide’s recycling facilities in Muncie and other locations often are cited for environmental violations themselves.

The pollutants Exide is accused of releasing into the air in Muncie can affect the nervous system, the reproductive systems in men and women, get deep into the lungs and aggravate asthma, and help form ground-level ozone associated with reduced lung function, according to the lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. In the case of 2,3,7,8, TCDD, the most well-known member of the dioxin/furans family, the emissions are a suspected human carcinogen.

The Muncie facility is called a secondary lead smelter. Primary lead is mined. Secondary lead is recovered from spent batteries.

In 2009, the Muncie Exide smelter agreed to pay the Indiana Department of Environmental Management a $97,500 civil penalty for polluting the air in Muncie with lead. In 2007, it paid IDEM a penalty of $115,400 to the state for alleged air violations on the heels of a $62,500 penalty for hazardous waste violations.

More recently, the state has accused the Muncie facility of neglecting its contingency plan for emergencies like fire, explosions and spills; cracks and gaps in a containment building that could lead to a fire or explosion; improper storage of furnace slag beyond a boundary; and brown-colored, lead-contaminated water along a storage area and rail spur as well as dead vegetation near a ditch leading to a storm drain.

Contact Seth Slabaugh at (765) 213-5834.

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