The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) on Tuesday announced that dust and soil sampling around a major battery recycling facility in the City of Vernon will begin today.
The Exide Technologies plant, part of an international corporation that is the biggest recycler of lead batteries in the world, was temporarily shut down earlier this year due to concerns over contamination leaking into the ground and into the air.
Exide, under supervision from DTSC, will collect the soil and dust sampling on properties adjacent to the plant and in the immediate community.
The samples will be taken from properties located next to Exide, and all within Vernon city limits, according to DTSC Media Information Officer Russ Edmondson. The samples will be analyzed for lead, arsenic and other toxic chemicals known to increase the risk of cancer and neurological and other health issues.
Additional testing will be conducted in October, and will include some nearby communities outside of Vernon.
The testing is being conducted as part of a cleanup plan that stems from an order that DTSC imposed on Exide last April, according to DTSC. The agency hopes to use the results to learn more about the cumulative health effects of Exide’s past practices and to help shape future regulation of the facility, according to DTSC.
“We want to bring assurance to the community that if contaminants from the facility are in their yard, Exide will clean them up,” said Brian Johnson, Deputy Director of DTSC’s Hazardous Waste Management Program.
Vernon Mayor Michael W. McCormick told EGP in a written statement that the city is pleased with DTSC’s announcement.
“The City of Vernon’s Health and Environmental Control Department remains committed to assisting our state and regional air, water and toxic substances oversight authorities in any way possible to protect the health of workers and residents in Vernon and our city’s nearby communities,” McCormick said.
While the almost exclusively industrial City of Vernon has only about 100 residents, over 50,000 people from neighboring communities work in the city daily. Neighboring residents praised DTSC’s decision to shut down Exide, but expressed anger that it had been allowed to operate so long without needed licenses or adequate oversight.
A judge, agreeing with an Exide appeal on the grounds that it had already remediated most of the hazards, overturned the closure order and allowed Exide to reopen until a full hearing of DTSC’s order is later held this year.
Earlier this summer, Exide held 8 public hearings on the contamination issue. 100,000 residents were notified in the affected areas that included Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, and the cities of Commerce, Huntington Park and Maywood. Many residents at those meetings demanded the permanent closure of the facility that has been previously cited for excessive lead emissions.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles City Council have also spoken out against Exide and vowed to hold the company responsible for the public’s health and safety.
The company filed for bankruptcy in June, and any settlement agreement will have to be approved by a bankruptcy judge. Hearings on the company’s operation are scheduled to start up again on Sept. 3, 4, and 5.
Dust sampling will begin today, while soil sampling will begin on Oct. 1; the findings will be submitted to DTSC by Nov. 15.
For more information, call DTSC at (800) 728-6942 or visit www.dtsc.ca.gov.