The Vernon City Council on Tuesday approved a letter to the South Coast Air Quality Management supporting a proposed rule that would set lead and arsenic emission standards for battery recycling facilities.
The letter, signed by Mayor W. Michel McCormick, states the city’s support for the “improved emission reduction requirements” found in the proposed amendment to Rule (PAR) 1420.1, which if approved would affect Exide Technologies, a lead-acid battery recycling facility in Vernon.
The letter comes in light of AQMD’s decision to reject Exide’s health risk reduction plan, which it was required to submit when it was found that the facility’s lead and arsenic emissions had repeatedly violated safety standards and posed a health risk to more than 250,000 residents in Southeast communities.
As previously reported by EGP, the AQMD on Oct. 18 filed a petition with its Hearing Board to shut down the facility’s lead smelting operations. Last week, the agency announced a series of pre-hearing conferences will be held starting Dec. 14 at a site still to be determined, but in an area near Exide’s plant in Vernon. The hearings are open to the public.
In his letter to the AQMD, McCormick said he wants to “ensure that everything possible is being done by [AQMD] to protect the health and safety of our residents.”
PAR 1420.1 would implement stricter air emission standards for large lead-acid battery recycling facilities. Currently, Exide Technologies in Vernon and Quemetco Inc. in the City of Industry are the only two facilities that would be subject to the new rules.
“PAR 1420.1 would further protect public health by addressing arsenic, benzene and 1.3-butadiene emissions which are the primary contributors to the elevated health risks,” states AQMD’s staff report on the proposed rule.
McCormick asked city staff if they believe Exide could meet and maintain the proposed stricter standards.
Vernon’s health and environmental director, Leonard Grossberg, said he believes the standards are achievable with the use of the latest technologies.
“I believe that Exide is eager to meet those objectives,” Grossberg said.
McCormick’s letter also urges the agency to use the best technology to accurately monitor and record emissions from Exide.
“Prior to this year there were no standards for arsenic emissions, that was one of the downfalls that AQMD had,” Grossberg said. “Rule 1401.1 is now establishing new standards for not only lead but arsenics.”
In addition, as part of the approval, staff was directed to invite members from the LA County Department of Public Health to an upcoming council meeting to discuss how lead blood testing — to determine if people living or working close to Exide’s proximity have elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream — will be conducted by the County.
Grossberg said the city is coordinating with its police and fire departments to offer those locations as possible testing sites.
During the meeting, city staff also introduced a new section on the city’s website dedicated to Exide Updates from Vernon’s health department, AQMD and DTSC, the state Department of Toxic Substance Control. The webpage will allow users to access documents related to Exide and to contact the city’s health department with any questions or comments.
“The rationale behind an Exide update webpage, is an outgrowth from the amount of contact we received from residents and workers who want to know what the city of Vernon is doing, or has done,” said Vernon Spokesman Fred MacFarlane.
AQMD is scheduled to meet next month to decide if they want to move forward with the new emission standards.
If enacted the rule would go into affect January 2014 and require the two facilities to be full compliance by January 2015.