Battery recycler Exide Technologies has submitted two plans to state toxics controls officials in response to test results from soil samples that showed elevated levels of lead in the backyards of several local homes and a preschool and park in unincorporated East Los Angeles.
The claims were filed within days of a public hearing in Boyle Heights where angry residents again criticized state officials for their failure to close down Exide’s plant in Vernon, despite repeated violations of state standards on toxic chemical emissions.
The Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) hosted the hearing at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights to address the latest test results, and to explain measures residents should take to avoid exposure to lead in their own backyards.
The plans submitted by Exide include a proposal to conduct additional soil sampling and to expand the area where the samples will be taken. It also calls for removing lead-laden soil at two properties.
Exide officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence directly, and exclusively linking elevated lead levels in surrounding communities to the company’s recycling of lead batteries in Vernon. As a result, the company is also proposing to pay for additional research to determine the source of the lead, include testing the paint in area homes for lead content.
“Exide remains committed to working with the DTSC and we believe the submitted plans will help us reach the shared goal of protecting public health, said E.N. “Bud” DeSart, Exide Senior Director of Commercial Operations in a press release.
Soil samples taken from the backyards of 39 homes in Boyle Heights and the city of Maywood and the Volunteers of America Head Start preschool at Salazar Park in unincorporated East LA, showed higher than expected levels of lead. The soil sample testing was ordered by DTSC following earlier tests found the company had failed to adequately keep toxic chemicals from escaping its Vernon plant.
Air quality officials are also pursuing action against Exide in response to several incidences of elevated emissions of toxins, including arsenic, into the air. Last year, the South Coast Air Quality Management District said arsenic emissions from Exide had increased the cancer risk to 110,000 east and southeast residents living near the facility located at 2700 S. Indiana Street.
Exide’s latest plans also include provisions for notifying residents in the affected area — along La Puerta Street, South Indiana Street, South Alma Avenue, East 52nd Street, East 53rd Street East —that soil samples taken in their area had detected high concentrations of lead, and information about the health consequences of lead exposure.
Contact information for DTSC, Exide and Advanced GeoServices, which produced the two plans for Exide, will also be provided in case the resident needs more information.
Residents will also be offered free blood testing for lead through Los Angeles County, but paid for by Exide.
As part of its plan, the company will collect demographic information from the 39 properties tested and arrange for certified lead paint inspectors to assess and address lead hazards in the homes. Exide will also cover bare soil that could become contaminated with lead, recommend paint stabilization strategies to reduce deterioration and exposure to lead; and potentially provide high efficient dust vacuuming to suck up fine particles such as dust and pollen to prevent them from being re-released to the air.
Soil will be removed from the two properties that had lead concentrations above California’s hazard level of 400mg/kg — at no cost to the residents, according to Exide.
Notification of the residents is expected to occur within 60 days of DTSC’s approval, while soil removal is expected to begin within 90 days of approval if permitted.
“Once approved by the department these plans will help provide further clarity on the sampling while also presenting a path forward to follow up actions to help continue safeguarding the health of our workforce and the community,” said DeSart.
The plans come on the heels of air quality officials announcing approval of Exide’s operational plan to reduce air emissions and reach compliance with AQMD’s stricter air quality standards. The plans also includes the company’s commitment to spend $5 million on upgrades to the Vernon facility over the next two years, bringing the company’s total investment to more than $20 million since 2010, according to Exide.
The battery recycler has been operating under a temporary DTSC permit for 32 years and is the only facility left in the state that has not been fully permitted, DTSC officials said last year.
Exide assures the plant has reduced emissions by more than 70 percent since 2010.
Information from City News Service was used in this report.