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

EXIDE VERNON BREAKING NEWS / MEDIA ROUNDUP: FINALLY! — After decades of toxic pollution and contamination, Exide to permanently close violation-ridden Vernon lead smelter to avoid criminal charges in deal reached with U.S. Attorney

“The reign of toxic lead ends today,” acting U.S. Atty. Stephanie Yonekura said Thursday. “After more than nine decades of ongoing lead contamination in the city of Vernon, neighborhoods can now start to breathe easier.”

Under a deal between federal officials and the company, Exide acknowledges criminal conduct, including the illegal storage and transportation of hazardous waste but will avoid prosecution in exchange for shutting down, demolishing and cleaning its 15-acre battery recycling plant about five miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

Exide had two choices after these discoveries: shut down or face criminal charges, federal prosecutors said.

As part of the deal, Exide acknowledged it illegally stored, disposed and transported hazardous waste. The company also admitted that it produced hazardous wastes, including lead, cadmium, arsenic and volatile organic compounds.

CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF TOXIC SUBSTANCE CONTROL NEWS RELEASE

DTSC Announces Order to Close Exide Facility and Steps to Protect Community with Enhanced Cleanup

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control(DTSC) announced it will issue anorder today that will safely close the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon and provide for enhanced cleanup of residential properties in the surrounding community.

Last month, DTSC initiated the process of denying the company’s permit application.After a detailed review of the facility’s record and its permit application, the departmentnotified Exide that it had concluded that the facility cannot operate in compliance with California’s safeguards to protect public health and the environment. The order to closethe facility will become an amendment to a DTSC order issued November 2014.

A key concern in DTSC’s discussions with the company over recent weeks has been Exide’s ability to ensure adequate funding for safely closing the facility and the complete cleanup of lead contamination in the surrounding community. The company has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since June 2013.

An agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, expected to be announced today, will help ensure that the company provides funding to meet its obligations. Under the settlement, Exide will avoid criminal charges related to its operation of the plant, in exchange for agreeing to close the facility in compliance with DTSC requirements.

“We have been working on a plan for closure for a number of weeks” said DTSC DirectorBarbara Lee. “In keeping with our commitment to the community, our priority now is to ensure the safe closure of the Exide plant and to complete the cleanup of contaminated yards in the surrounding neighborhoods.”

DTSC’s decision to close the plant was based on several factors, including the facility’s incomplete application following several notices of deficiency, inability to meet safety standards, failure to certify the structural integrity of a containment building used to hold hundreds of tons of lead, and poor history of compliance with environmental and health protection laws.

“DTSC will use every tool and legal mechanism at its disposal to ensure that Exide’s remaining resources are used to properly close the facility and cleanup contamination in the residential area,” DTSC Director Lee said. As demonstrated by recent cleanup work in the community and on the company’s property, DTSC has worked to hold Exide responsible for removing the contamination caused by the plant with no additional cost to tax payers.

DTSC’s November 2014 order required Exide to set aside a total of $38.6 million including an existing $11 million surety bond for safely closing the plant, and a total of $9 million for cleanup of the two neighborhoods.

Under the order, Exide deposited $2.75 million into a closure financial assurance fund, and $3 million into a trust fund forresidential cleanup. The order specified when additional funds would be deposited into those funds.

In the past two years, DTSC took several enforcement actions against the facility beginning with a suspension order in April 2013; a $1.3 million fine in November 2014;and most recently a statement of violations, including illegal treatment of hazardoussludge, in January 2015.

The facility has not operated since March 2014. While the facility remains shut down, DTSC will continue to have its inspectors on-site when work is being performed asdirected by the department’s orders.

In 2013, DTSC determined that the Exide facility was responsible for lead contaminationin the yards of two residential neighborhoods that the South Coast Air QualityManagement District determined were the most likely impacted from Exide’s operations.

DTSC ordered Exide to sample and clean yards that exceeded California’s strict standardsfor lead contamination in soil.  This sampling is occurring at 216 residential properties in two neighborhoods; several properties contain more than one residence.

Sampling has been completed on 152 properties: three did not require cleanup; 38 have completed cleanup; 77 are awaiting cleanup; and data is being analyzed on the remaining 34. Owners of 64 properties have not yet agreed to sampling.

Under DTSC’s orders, Exide remains responsible for the cleanup of lead in the two residential neighborhoods, as well as the clean up of contamination on its property at 2700 South Indiana Street in Vernon. Exide is also under orders to investigate and clean contamination in the industrial area adjacent to its facility.

The company is required under a 2002 order to cleanup residential, industrial and other areas impacted by the facility. DTSC is currently overseeing an investigation to determine the extent of contamination on- and off-site. DTSC has ordered Exide to conduct a Corrective Measures Study to determine the best remedy for cleaning up all such contamination.

The Exide Technologies facility recycled lead from used automotive batteries and other sources. The Vernon plant typically recycled about 11 million batteries annually.

Exide operated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) as an interim status treatment and storage facility. DTSC’s predecessor agency, the California Department of Public Health, issued an Interim Status Document to a predecessor to Exide on Dec.18, 1981. Exide acquired the facility in 2000.

Between 1990 and 2015, DTSC levied a total of about $2 million in penalties against Exide and its predecessors in 10 separate enforcement actions, of which $1.3 million came from the November 2014 order. These enforcement actions cited more than 100 violations of California’s hazardous waste laws.

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LOS ANGELES TIMES

Regulators detail Exide closure after decades of toxic pollution

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control said Thursday it would issue an order to begin the shutdown of the embattled Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon.

The announcement comes as federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials prepared to join Vernon representatives Thursday morning outside the U.S. attorney’s office in downtown L.A. to announce the closure of the plant.

Under a deal between federal officials and the company, Exide acknowledges criminal conduct, including the illegal storage and transportation of hazardous waste but will avoid prosecution in exchange for shutting down, demolishing and cleaning its 15-acre battery recycling plant about five miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

“The reign of toxic lead ends today,” acting U.S. Atty. Stephanie Yonekura said Thursday. “After more than nine decades of ongoing lead contamination in the city of Vernon, neighborhoods can now start to breathe easier.”

EXPLAINER: Exide closure Q&A

The agreement calls for the immediate closure of the battery recycling facility and estimates that Exide’s direct costs of compliance are well in excess of $100 million, including the company walking away from recent improvements to the facility and incurring new costs for lead and plastic that must now be purchased to manufacture new batteries.

The Toxic Substances Control Board said it would issue an order that outlines the safe closure of the plant along with cleanup of residential properties in neighboring areas.

“DTSC will use every tool and legal mechanism at its disposal to ensure that Exide’s remaining resources are used to properly close the facility and clean up contamination in the residential area,” department Director Barbara Lee said in a statement.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park), who wrote legislation requiring the state agency to issue Exide a permit or shut it down by the end of 2015, said the plant’s closure will bring relief to those who live in the area.

“But the legacy of impacts of this facility will not go away overnight,” he said in a statement. “To truly understand the magnitude of this issue, we need a comprehensive review of soil contamination and better data on the health impacts to people who continue to be exposed to unhealthy levels of lead and arsenic.”

Sitting in her small blue Honda car with her grandson outside of Maywood Elementary School, two miles from the Exide plant, Angela Benitez, 60, smiled at the news that the battery recycling plant was closing for good. She has lived in the area for nine years.

“It’s magnificent,” she said. “We’ve been signing petitions for it to close.”

Benitez said she remembered the noxious fumes the facility emitted.

“It was almost like an acid smell, a bleach-like odor,” she recalled.

The smell would cause her eyes to become inflamed. She’d get headaches and her grandson would often cough, she said.

She said she’s disappointed Exide would not face criminal charges.

“I don’t think the punishment fits the crime,” Benitez said.

A 2013 report released by the South Coast Air Quality Management District found that Exide’s arsenic emissions endangered the health of 110,000 people who live near the plant.

Over decades of operation, the facility has polluted the soil beneath it with high levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and other toxic metals, according to state environmental records. It has also fouled groundwater, released battery acid onto roads and contaminated homes and yards in surrounding communities with lead emissions.

The agreement with federal officials is intended to allow Exide to continue operating as a viable company — it also recycles batteries at facilities in Missouri and Indiana — so that it can pay for cleanup of the Vernon facility and surrounding neighborhoods, according to the person involved with the negotiations. The Georgia-based company, one of the world’s largest lead-acid battery recyclers and manufacturers, is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has filed plans to to emerge as a reorganized company. A hearing in the bankruptcy case is scheduled for March 27.

A key factor driving the agreement in the case, which was forged during negotiations in recent days, was a condition of the company’s reorganization plan that said the firm could be liquidated if there was criminal prosecution.

Exide’s battery plants have left a similar legacy of pollution and health concerns across the country.

Since 2012, the company has closed or halted lead recycling operations in Pennsylvania and Texas in the face of pressure from regulators and surrounding residents.

Exide will be held to an agreement made last fall with state regulators that requires the company to set aside $38.6 million for closure and cleanup of the facility and to place $9 million in a trust fund to clean lead-tainted soil from surrounding homes. Those payments will be expedited under the agreement with federal officials.

If Exide violates terms of the agreement in the next 10 years, it could face criminal charges.

The wide-ranging federal criminal investigation into the company — first disclosed publicly in August — involved its air emissions and transportation of hazardous waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation were also involved in the investigation.

The Vernon plant, which can melt tens of thousands of car batteries a day to provide a source of lead for new batteries, has sat idle for the last year because it could not comply with air quality standards.

The facility had been allowed to operate for decades with only a temporary permit from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The facility has operated in Vernon since 1922 and was taken over by Exide in 2000. The company has repeatedly been cited for violations of environmental regulations by state and local officials in recent years.

Following public outcry, Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed a law requiring regulators to either issue Exide a full permit by the end of 2015 or force the facility to close. Toxic Substances Department officials had said recently they were reviewing the company’s application.

Twitter: @LATvives@tonybarboza

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Exide closing Vernon plant to avoid criminal prosecution

Under the deal, Exide will acknowledge criminal conduct, including the illegal storage and transportation of hazardous waste, but will avoid prosecution in exchange for shutting down, demolishing and cleaning its 15-acre battery recycling plant about five miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, according to a person involved in the negotiations.

The facility, one of only two battery recycling plants west of the Rocky Mountains, has stoked outrage among community groups and elected officials for its long history of violating air pollution standards and hazardous waste laws.

The closure marks a major victory for residents of the working-class neighborhood near the plant, who had raised concerns about pollution and demanded action against Exide. A 2013 report released by the South Coast Air Quality Management District found Exide’s arsenic emissions endangered the health of 110,000 people who live near the plant.

A company spokeswoman reached late Wednesday did not have immediate comment.

Over decades of operation, the facility has polluted the soil beneath it with high levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and other toxic metals, state environmental records show. It has fouled groundwater, released battery acid onto roads and contaminated homes and yards in surrounding communities with lead emissions.

Hazardous waste from the Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon has leaked from trailers onto public highways in what a state environmental inspector called an “ongoing problem” that “needs to be addressed immediately” in 2013.

The agreement with federal officials is intended to allow Exide to continue operating as a viable company — it recycles batteries at facilities in Missouri and Indiana — so that it can pay for cleanup of the Vernon facility and surrounding neighborhoods, according to the person involved with the negotiations. The Georgia company, one of the world’s largest lead-acid battery recyclers and manufacturers, is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has filed plans to to emerge as a reorganized company. A hearing in the bankruptcy case is scheduled for March 27.

A key factor driving the agreement in the case, which was forged during negotiations in recent days, was a condition of the company’s reorganization plan that said the company could be liquidated if there was criminal prosecution.

Since 2012, the company has closed or halted lead recycling operations in Pennsylvania and Texas in the face of pressure from regulators and surrounding residents.

Exide will be held to an agreement made last fall with state regulators that requires the company to set aside $38.6 million for closure and cleanup of the facility and to place $9 million in a trust fund to clean lead-tainted soil from surrounding homes. Those payments will be expedited under the agreement with federal officials.

If Exide violates terms of the agreement in the next 10 years, it could face criminal charges.

The wide-ranging federal criminal investigation into the company — first disclosed publicly in August — involved its air emissions and transportation of hazardous waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation were also involved in the investigation.

The Vernon plant, which can melt tens of thousands of car batteries a day to provide a source of lead for new batteries, has sat idle for the last year because it could not comply with air quality standards.

The facility had been allowed to operate for decades with only a temporary permit from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The facily has operated in Vernon since 1922 and was taken over by Exide in 2000. The company has repeatedly been cited for violations of environmental regulations by state and local officials in recent years.

Following public outcry, Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed a law requiring regulators to either issue Exide a full permit by the end of 2015 or force the facility to close. Toxic substances department officials had said recently they were reviewing the company’s application.

Twitter: @tonybarboza

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Q&A: Exide closure a long-sought win for working-class neighborhood

89.3 KPCC – SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RADIO

Vernon-based Exide Technologies to shut down permanently under deal with US Attorney

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 MAYA SUGARMAN/KPCC
Exide Technologies, a lead battery recycler in Vernon, will shut down for good as the result of a negotiated settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“We have reached a deal with Exide that will result in the immediate and permanent closure of the battery recycling plant,” said spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office Thom Mrozek. “It’s a complicated deal, but we think it will ensure that money is available to pay for tens of millions of dollars in cleanup efforts.”

Under the settlement, Exide Technologies will avoid federal criminal liability.

“The agreement to close the plant is the best outcome for the health of exposed residents. It is the best outcome for society,” L.A. County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement.

Last August, a federal grand jury began investigating Exide over air emissions and the transportation of hazardous materials. The company revealed the investigation in a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Exide sought protection from creditors in a Delaware bankruptcy court nearly 2 years ago. In its most recent public comments, the company announced it intended to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the end of March.

“Exide operated for too long with a temporary permit and that is something that should have never happened. And it certainly shouldn’t happen again,” Solis said.

A spokeswoman for Exide reached Wednesday night said the company would not confirm a settlement, and would offer no comment.

Neighbors to the plant in Boyle Heights, Vernon and Maywood have sought to shutter the plant ever since a study released by the South Coast Air Quality Management District revealed significantly elevated cancer risk for more than 100,000 people living and working near the plant.

Exide, one of two lead battery smelters west of the Mississippi, has long insisted it was working diligently to reopen. But last week, AQMD board members okayed tighter restrictions for air emissions from Exide and Quemetco, located in the City of Industry.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control is overseeing cleanup of properties around Exide. As of Monday, DTSC contractors have cleaned up 38 of 216 homes north and south of the plant, with 34 homes awaiting test results, 77 homes in line for cleanup, and 54 homes awaiting initial tests.

This story has been updated.

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KABC LOS ANGELES

Exide To Shut Down Vernon Recycling Plant, Pay $50 million For Clean-Up

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday the permanent closure of a battery recycling plant in Vernon operated by Exide Technologies. The company will also pay $50 million to clean up the site and nearby neighborhoods affected by dangerous toxins released from its facility.

“The reign of toxic lead ends today,” acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura said in a statement. “After more than nine decades of ongoing lead contamination in the City of Vernon, neighborhoods can now start to breathe easier.”

The battery recycling plant has sat idle for a year due to major legal and environmental problems.

The State Department of Toxic Substances Control found that Exide had been releasing cancer-causing arsenic into the air for years. The facility’s failing pipes also leaked water contaminated with hazardous wastes into the soil below the facility. Authorities found elevated levels of lead in the soil of homes and a school near the Vernon plant.

Exide had two choices after these discoveries: shut down or face criminal charges, federal prosecutors said.

As part of the deal, Exide acknowledged it illegally stored, disposed and transported hazardous waste. The company also admitted that it produced hazardous wastes, including lead, cadmium, arsenic and volatile organic compounds.

The facility is expected to be demolished and cleaned up.

“The agreement to close the plant is the best outcome for the health of exposed residents. It is the best outcome for society,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who represents Vernon.

Federal prosecutors said the final agreement will cost the company about $100 million to comply, including losses incurred from recent improvements to the facility. About $9 million will go into trust fund for the clean-up of 216 residences in Boyle Heights and Maywood.

In exchange, Exide will not face criminal charges.

“Without the NPA (Non-Prosecution Agreement), prosecutors believe, Exide would cease to exist as a viable company and responsibility to clean up toxic sites like the recycling plant in Vernon would revert to governmental agencies,” prosecutors said in a statement.

Exide operates several facilities across the country. In 2013, the company filed for bankruptcy.

If the agreement is not followed, the government could prosecute Exide for any crimes committed.

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CBS LOS ANGELES

Exide Recycling Plant Ordered To Close Immediately Under Agreement With US Attorney

VERNON (CBSLA.com) — The embattled Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon will immediately and permanently shut down under an agreement made with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The agreement, which was reached Wednesday night, states that Exide Technologies on South Indiana Street between East 26th Street and Bandini Boulevard will close and pay millions for its cleanup.

The controversial plant has been cited multiple times by the community for violating air pollution and hazardous waste laws.

“The United States Attorney’s Office entered into the NPA (Non-Prosecution Agreement) because negotiations with the bankrupt company revealed that even the threat of a criminal prosecution would almost certainly force the liquidation of the company,” the U.S. Attorney said in a statement Thursday. “The NPA opens the door to new funding for the company, which employs thousands of workers in the United States and around the world, and ensures that money will be available to pay for the clean-up of the Vernon site and several other toxic sites around the United States.”

Exide will have to set aside $38.6 million for the closure and cleanup of the 15-acre site and an additional $9 million for the cleanup of the soil around area homes.

The company also faces numerous lawsuits, including one that alleges a number of nearby residents died due to the pollution.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis applauded the agreement saying it was the “best outcome” for the health of the residents as well as the society.

“But this is not the end of the story. The plant may be closed for good, but the cleanup is just beginning,” she said in a statement. “We need to make sure we have the funds to restore homes to safety and to remove contaminated soil in our parks and other areas where lead and other toxins have accumulated. Displaced Exide workers must be trained and placed in new jobs.”

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