Elected Officials, Residents Scold State Regulators for Exide’s Continued Non-Compliance

Residents call for plant’s closure and testing for more chemicals.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

Three elected officials on Tuesday expressed their commitment to helping residents of Boyle Heights and others affected communities shut down a lead acid battery recycling plant in Vernon, which has repeatedly emitted harmful chemicals into the air and soil while operating on a temporary permit for over 30 years.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Funcionarios y Residentes Regañan a Reguladores por Contaminación Continuo Proveniente de Exide

State Sen. Kevin de León hosted the Town Hall in Boyle Heights to discuss issues related to Exide Technologies in Vernon. He was joined by Sen. Ricardo Lara, Assembly Speaker John Pérez and area residents who angrily told state and local regulators that they are not doing enough to protect the health of hundreds of thousands of people living and working in the area.

Teresa Marquez said she is worried about future generations. (From L to R) Sen. Kevin De Leon, Assembly Speaker John Perez and Sen. Ricardo Lara led the town hall at Resurrection Church on Tuesday night.  (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Teresa Marquez said she is worried about future generations. (From L to R) Sen. Kevin De Leon, Assembly Speaker John Perez and Sen. Ricardo Lara led the town hall at Resurrection Church on Tuesday night.
(EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Pérez called on the regulators to understand the frustration of residents, noting that this is only the most recent, not the first, town hall meeting on Exide, which has been an air quality offender for years, but is still allowed to continue operating.

“Generations feel ignored by the very people who are supposed to protect them,” Pérez said. “When you look at the decades of harm on this community, it is incumbent on you to do everything… you have got to do everything in your power to shut down repeat offenders.”

The often-raucous meeting lasted two hours longer than originally planned and took place in the auditorium of Resurrection Church where community activists and Neighborhood Watch members have been organizing to force the permanent closure of the battery recycler.

Air and toxic substance control authorities and the director of the LA County Department Public Health, which will be administering blood testing to residents in the designated area, made presentations and took questions.

Residents were for the most part unsatisfied with answers to their questions from regulators, with the audience from time to time angrily breaking into a chorus of shout to “shut it down!”

Pérez put Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) Director Debbie Raphael and AQMD Executive Officer Barry R. Wallerstein on the spot, asking them if they believed the plant should be allowed to continue to operate or shut down based on its track record?

Raphael told Pérez she didn’t know, but earlier in the meeting she said DTSC had already shut down Exide once, and they are not done yet.

“We are not walking away” from the problem, Raphael said.

The crowd wasn’t impressed with her answer, however, and continued to give Raphael and Wallerstein a tough time.

On Monday, DTSC announced it had reached an agreement with Exide, and that the   Stipulation and Order would require the company to set aside $7.7 million to pay for upgrades to reduce arsenic emissions, replace the leaking piping system, conduct lead blood testing for residents, and to do dust and soil sampling in the area.

While the order first needs to be approved by the bankruptcy judge, DTSC and AQMD consider it a partial victory. Residents, however, aren’t looking for an agreement that resolves or lifts the suspension order issued by DTSC in April. They don’t want Exide to be left off the hook and allowed to continue to operate.

On Monday, Exide representatives told CNS they have already begun working on a $4 million upgrade to the plant’s underground storm-water piping system and “high-efficiency filters.”

Residents, aware of a Dow Jones Business News report that states Exide will pay four times that amount, $16 million, in bonuses to employees under its restructuring plan, believe the amount of money to pay for upgrades and testing is woefully insufficient.

Nonetheless, despite constant calls to shut Exide down, regulators said they are obligated to follow due process in dealing with Exide. They said legislators can help by approving legislation for stiffer penalties for non-compliance that will also prevent polluters from reopening.

Pérez responded by telling regulators to use some “creativity” to bring justice to those who have been exposed to contamination coming from Exide for decades.

Asked what it would take for the plant to be shut down, regulators said there has to be evidence that the plant poses an eminent danger to residents and that it does not have the ability to operate safely: something residents say has already been proven.

Speaker after speaker called for additional tests to check for chemicals such as arsenic and benzene. Boyle Heights resident Teresa Marquez and others said they aren’t satisfied with the county health department director’s assertion that that arsenic testing is too complicated.

“We have baby teeth [that you can use for testing]!” Marquez shouted from her seat.

In the meantime, AQMD is reviewing Exide’s risk reduction plan and a California Environmental Quality Act study is happening concurrently with the permitting process, Wallerstein said.

DTSC’s Brian Johnson said not issuing the permit could set in motion shutting the plant down.

During his presentation, Wallerstein said AQMD is not comfortable that the testing at the facility is reflecting regular operation levels, that the pollution control devices are working properly and that the outdated designs of the equipment at the plant keep breaking down.

“Frankly, its an embarrassment that this plant is not able to operate within the rules and regulations,” Wallerstein said.

In 2013, AQMD has had 83 site inspections and issued four notices of noncompliance, with a couple more being issued his week, Wallerstein said.

Michael Arellano, a Boyle Heights resident, told elected officials and regulators that he and others had received a claim form regarding Exide’s bankruptcy and they didn’t know how to respond to it. De León said they would talk to Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard’s office about maybe having a meeting on this topic before the fast approaching deadline of Oct. 31.

Exide’s next bankruptcy hearing is scheduled for Nov. 5.

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October 10, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

Comments

3 Responses to “Elected Officials, Residents Scold State Regulators for Exide’s Continued Non-Compliance”

  1. none of your business on October 11th, 2013 5:18 pm

    It is not the people in Boyle heights but just a Jew people how attend a church in the area. The people live in and area with a rail yard, the 5, 710, 10, 60, 110, and 91 freeways emit toxins into the air. They want to blame Exide for everything, but do not understand. I b Rtnone of them can prove they have health problems related to lead. They sit around on their behind eating everything in site, gain weight and then want to blame Exide for their health problems.

    Take a aspirin and crush it. Use a microscope and take one of the microscopic pieces and place it in a box about the size of a milk create. That I’d the amount of emission Exide I’d not allow to emit into the air. Also the matrix used is flawed. A person must be standing an a corner for 75 years with perfect conditions at a particular time to have a chance of getting sick. The elected officials are a bunch of idiots and have no idea how much Exide does to keep emissions down.if they did they would keep their mouths shut and stop doing what they are doing.

    The news media also have not given Exide a fair shake. All the ness its negative and at no point have they attempted to get exudes side of things. What happen pointing the news and allowing each side to present their story. The community of Boyle heights have a bunch of idiots in it if they think Exide is trying to hurt them. I bet if they had family working at Exide they one not care.

  2. none of your business on October 11th, 2013 5:27 pm

    It is not the people in Boyle heights but just a Jew people how attend a church in the area. The people live in and area with a rail yard, the 5, 710, 10, 60, 110, and 91 freeways emit toxins into the air. They want to blame Exide for everything, but do not understand. I bet none of them can prove they have health problems related to lead. They sit around on their behind eating everything in site, gain weight and then want to blame Exide for their health problems.

    Exide cannot emit more than 0.15 ppm into the air. I bet none of the elected officials, the big mouths, and the catholic prettiest have and idea how small that is. Take a aspirin and crush it. Use a microscope and take one of the microscopic pieces and place it in a box about the size of a milk create. That I’d the amount of emission Exide I’d not allow to emit into the air.

    Also the matrix used is flawed. A person must be standing an a corner, at a particular time of day, with the right wind for 75 years before they have a small chance of getting sick.

    The elected officials are a bunch of idiots and have no idea how much Exide does to keep emissions down.if they did they would keep their mouths shut and stop doing what they are doing.

    The news media also have not given Exide a fair shake. All the news is negative and at no point have they attempted to get Exide’s side of the story. What happen to putting on the news and allowing each side to present their story. The community of Boyle heights have a bunch of idiots in it if they think Exide is trying to hurt them. I bet if they had family working at Exide they one not care.

  3. Teresa Marquez on October 11th, 2013 11:35 pm

    Honored and proud to stand with Senator Kevin de Leon, Assembly Speaker John Perez, and Senator Ricardo Lara against Exide Technologies and questions our government agencies DTSC, AQMD and the CA Health Department what are they doing to protect the people first, that is their priority instead of spending so much time with Exide that continues to violate all the laws regarding the levels of arsenic, lead, Benzene and more chemicals polluting an area around the city of Vernon with 250,000 people or more. It seems that all government agencies are working so hard to keep EXIDE open that they forgot what they responsibility is, and that is to protect the people from this companies.
    Since 2008 when AQMD discover broken pipes linking chemicals into the ground Exide has been written up violations after violation. When DTSC closed them down, Exide went to court and won by having Judge Lavin in Los Angeles Superior Court lift the court order to keep them closed. Since Judge Lavin allow them to reopen, eleven weeks ago, EXIDE has had 11 incidents that call for reporting to the AQMD, several violation have been written since, Exide has failed to upgrade and/or keep maintenance up in their equipment that is constantly breaking down allowing more pollution to our communities of: Los Angeles City (Boyle Heights) City Terrace, East Los Angeles unincorporated, Montebello, City of Commerce, Maywood, Bell and Huntington park are the most affected with dangerous pollutions. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH CLOSE THEM DOWN.

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