County to Offer Free Lead Screenings to Residents Living Near Exide

Confidential testing will begin April 7 and continue through September.

By City News Service

Los Angeles County health officials announced Wednesday they will offer free blood lead screenings to residents who live, work or attend school near the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon.

Recent testing of soil samples found elevated levels of lead in 39 homes around the plant.

The county Department of Public Health will offer confidential blood lead screenings from April 7 through the end of September. Residents can call (844) 888-2290 beginning April 7 to get more information about the screenings or to have lab requisition forms sent to their homes.

County officials stressed that the elevated lead levels detected by the soil samples were not considered particularly alarming, but since the levels were above those recommended by the state, further testing has been ordered.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the public health department, encouraged residents to take advantage of the free testing, and he again lashed out at the Exide operation and called for its closure.

“Given the history of repeated violations at this facility, it is hard to understand why Exide Technologies has been allowed to continue operation before the state has made a final determination to either issue or deny the facility’s operating permit,” he said.

Exide officials said last week that area air quality regulators approved the plant’s plan to reduce arsenic emissions from the plant. The plan will sink another $5 million in upgrades at the plant, meaning the company will have spent $20 million on efforts to improve the plant and reduce emissions, according to Exide.

The company contends it has reduced emissions by more than 70 percent since 2010.

The Exide plant has been under close scrutiny by state and local regulators over the past year. The plant was forced to temporarily shut down last year due to arsenic emissions, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District sued the company in January alleging numerous air quality violations.

The battery recycling plant has been operating under a temporary permit from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control for the past 32 years and is the only facility left in the state that has not been fully permitted, DTSC officials said last year.

The plant, in operation since 1922, recycles 23,000 to 41,000 batteries daily.

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March 27, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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