Air quality and local officials are urging residents to testify at a hearing on the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (SCAQMD) petition to shut down Vernon-based lead-acid battery recycler Exide Technologies for failing to “control gaseous pollutant emissions including arsenic.”
The meeting will be held Dec. 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cal State Los Angeles. There is a free shuttle service to the hearing from some of the locally more impacted communities: City of Commerce, East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights and Huntington Park.
The Dec. 14 hearing marks the start of the abatement proceedings, with a second hearing scheduled to take place in January. Representatives from SCAQMD and Exide Technologies will present their case before AQMD’s Hearing Board, an independent administrative law panel that will decide whether the plant should remain open.
Sen. Kevin De Leon, who previously stated closure is “long overdue,” has also urged the Board to take “immediate action” to shut down the battery recycler.
“Exide has flagrantly and repeatedly put the public’s health in danger,” De Leon told EGP. “Shut the plant down. South Coast Air Quality Management District has made exactly the right decision to move in this direction and should follow through with it.”
Commerce Councilmember Ivan Altamirano told EGP by email that he plans to attend the hearing and said he is encouraging Commerce residents to also attend. In addition to keeping residents updated on Exide-related news through its website, social media pages and monthly newsletter, the city is also developing a “Frequently Asked Questions” flyer about Exide to make available to residents.
“While we do not know the extent of the impacts of Exide’s operations, according to the AQMD the release of these highly toxic metals from the Exide facility has imposed a significant health risk to our residents and that concerns us greatly,” said Altamirano.
Denise Garzaro, SCAQMD senior deputy clerk told EGP the board decided to hold its first meeting in the community to ensure that residents living in areas near Exide have an opportunity to voice any concerns or comments.
“We’re anticipating a lot of interest,” Garzaro said. “We’re making room for hundreds [of people].”
Free parking will be provided on campus and a free shuttle service will take residents to and from the hearing throughout the day. SCAQMD will provide the free hourly bus shuttles, the first of which will depart beginning at 8 a.m. from Hollenbeck Middle School located on 2510 East Sixth St in Los Angeles; the Salt Lake Recreation Center located on 3401 E. Florence Ave. in Huntington Park; the Maravilla Community Center located at 4919 Cesar Chavez Ave in East Los Angeles and from Commerce City Hall, located at 2535 Commerce Way.
Although the meeting is scheduled to run between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., opening statements by AQMD and Exide will only take place at the beginning of the hearing. The floor will then open for public comment and adjourn at the end of testimony, or no later than 4 p.m.
Boyle Heights resident Teresa Marquez told EGP Wednesday that “It is so sad” that even though residents like her have said over and over again that they want Exide closed because “proven facts” show it is an “imminent danger” to residents in the densely populated area, air quality officials still need to hear more before they will take action. “What more can we take to the hearing, unless we spoke and no one was paying attention.”
On Oct. 18, the air quality agency filed to temporarily shut down all lead smelting operations at the Exide plant because air monitoring reports showed again found emissions of cancer causing chemicals that exceed state safety standards.
This is not the first time the battery recycler has faced violations or threats of closure. Earlier this year the California Dept. of Toxic Substance Control issued a shut down order after a health risk assessment showed emissions from the facility were causing unacceptable health risk to communities in Southeast Los Angeles County, as many as 250,000 people.
The plant was able to reopen after a judge overturned the closure stating that the company had addressed air emission concerns and demonstrated sufficient progress.
The reopening of the plant prompted further outcry from local residents and stakeholders from Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park who have continued to pressure AQMD and officials from the DTSC to permanently shut down the facility over concerns that it is unable to mitigate the health risk to people who live and work in nearby communities.
Typically these types of hearings take only one day, says Garzaro, but the public’s highly publicized criticism and interest in Exide have caused the Board to take a little longer with the case to get a better understanding and to provide “accessibility for people who have been registering their concerns.”
“There’s a lot of unknowns,” said Garzaro, referring to the number of people who may testify. “Ultimately its up to the district [AQMD] to make their case.”
Future testimony will occur throughout the month at the district headquarters in Diamond Bar, during which both sides will offer witnesses and testimony related to the facility. The Board also plans on holding another public hearing, in the community, says Garzaro, in early 2014 before making a final decision.
For more information contact the Clerk of the Board at (909) 396-2500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Hearing on Exide at CSULA
Golden EagleBuilding, Third Floor
5151 State University Dr. Los Angeles 90032
Parking: Free parking in Lot C
Shuttle: Hollenbeck Middle School—2510 East Sixth St Los Angeles 90023
Salt Lake Recreation Center—3401 E. Florence Ave. Huntington Park 90255
Maravilla Community Center—4919 Cesar Chavez Ave. Los Angeles 90022
Commerce City Hall— 2535 Commerce Way Commerce 90048