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Officials Call For Investigation Into Exide Permit

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The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to back an investigation into why a Vernon battery recycling plant cited for lead and arsenic pollution was allowed to operate without a full permit for more than 30 years.

Lea esta nota en ESPAÑOL: Consejo de L.A. Respalda Investigación Acerca de los Permisos Inadecuados de Exide [1]

The resolution by Councilman Jose Huizar calls on state lawmakers and agencies to apply “stringent” standards before allowing Exide Technologies to resume operations. In April, the Department of Toxic Substances Control ordered the plant to cease operations.

Exide Technologies, located in Vernon, will host public meetings on the health risks residents and workers face in the surrounding communities. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The council also voted in favor of Exide remedying the pollution by upgrading wastewater pipes that the state toxic control agency alleged were leaking arsenic into the soil, potentially polluting groundwater in the area.

No one with Exide Technologies in Vernon was available for comment Tuesday, but the company has announced it will hold 8 public meetings between today and next Wednesday to inform residents and workers who live or work near the facility about possible health risks they may face from exposure to the company’s hazardous emissions. Exide was ordered to hold the meetings by the South Coast Air Quality District (AQMD). In addition to Vernon, the impacted communities include Maywood, Huntington Park, Boyle Heights, Commerce and unincorporated East Los Angeles. The first three meetings will be held today in Huntington Park at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Exide and AQMD officials will answer questions about the toxic chemicals potential health risks and what the company is doing to reduce arsenic emissions.

Boyle Heights is part of Huizar’s council district and within an area of about 110,000 residents who could have been affected by arsenic pollution, known to cause cancer. A meeting will be held at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights on June 4 at 6 p.m.

“Exide is adding toxic air pollution to Boyle Heights, in an area that already has unacceptable levels of air pollution,” Huizar said in April, when news of the company’s excessive toxic emissions first broke.

Huizar said Tuesday he was not satisfied with the state agency’s handling of Exide’s permitting process over the years.

“I do question why the company was allowed to operate with an interim permit,” he said.

Additional public meetings will be held June 1 in Commerce and June 5 in Vernon.

The battery recycling plant has been operating under a temporary DTSC permit for the past 32 years and is the only facility left in the state that has not been fully permitted, the agency’s spokesman Jim Marxen told City News Service.

An effort was made in 2002 to bring the plant up to industry standards so that it could qualify for a full permit, but that process was stalled in 2006, Marxen said, adding that public hearings were held at the time.

A renewed effort was made to get the company into compliance in 2011 when Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Debbie Raphael as the new DTSC director, he said.

The latest order to shut down the battery plant came as the permitting process started up again, but “it just got to a point where problems were at a level where it was an unacceptable risk” for the company to continue operating, Marxen said.

Vernon spokesman Fred MacFarlane told EGP that city officials have been informed about the community meetings. He said Vernon’s Health and Environmental Control Department lacked the authority to issue an air emissions health advisory and had previously requested the AQMD to issue the advisory.

“Vernon city officials felt an AQMD health advisory that explained the risks and detailed any preventative measures that residents should take to protect their health – particularly for seniors and young children – was a prudent and responsible step to take by our region’s air quality regulatory authority,” said MacFarlane.

Assembly Speaker John Perez, whose district includes Vernon, had also been pressuring the toxic control agency to bring about a “rapid resolution” to arsenic emissions at Exide, calling it “one more chapter in this terrible story of ongoing pollution and malfeasance.”

The dangerous emissions from the Vernon-based facility elevated the cancer risks in its surrounding areas with potentially 156 cancer cases per million people expected to develop, AQMD officials said. The long-term non-cancer risks to people in the area include developmental delays, cardiovascular, central nervous system, respiratory and skin damage, and are 63 times higher than state guidelines, according to the AQMD.

California’s Department of Toxic Substance Control ordered the facility to cease operations in April after finding that Exide’s emissions were seeping into the soil and air and creating a significant health risk to the public. Exide was cited in late 2007, early 2008 and early 2009 for violating both AQMD and state lead standards, according to the AQMD report.

The plant recycles about 22 million automotive batteries a year and has been operating in Vernon since the 1920s. Exide, a publicly traded company with operations in 80 countries, took it over about 10 years ago.

For more information about the public meetings contact John Hogarth of Exide Technologies at (323) 262-1101 ext. 275.

Exide Public Meetings:

Huntington Park Thursday, May 30

Huntington Park Community Center

6925 Salt Lake Ave.

Huntington Park, CA 90255

Times: 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 6p.m.

Commerce

Saturday, June 1

Doubletree Hotel

Grand Tree Ballroom

5757 Telegraph Road

Commerce, CA 90040

Times: 8:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m.

Boyle Heights Tuesday, June 4

Resurrection Catholic Church

3324 East Opal Street

Los Angeles, CA 90023

Time: 6 p.m.

Vernon

Wednesday, June 5

City of Vernon Council Chamber

4305 Sante Fe Avenue

Vernon, CA 90058

Time: 4 p.m.


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[1] Consejo de L.A. Respalda Investigación Acerca de los Permisos Inadecuados de Exide: http://egpnews.com/2013/05/consejo-de-l-a-respalda-investigacion-acerca-de-los-permisos-inadecuados-de-exide/

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