Exide Lays Off Workers at Shuttered Plant

Battery-recycler temporarily shifts jobs to other facilities.

By City News Service

With its Vernon battery-recycling plant still shuttered thanks to a dispute with air-quality regulators, Exide Technologies issued temporary layoff notices today to more than 100 employees.


Exide officials were recently rebuffed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and a judge in their effort to resume operations at the plant while it worked to install upgraded “negative pressure” furnaces designed to better control arsenic emissions.


 The plant has been closed for weeks while it was undergoing other upgrades, but Exide officials said they needed more time to install new equipment to meet the more stringent emission requirements. Without a variance by the AQMD, however, the company cannot restart its plant.


“Because our Vernon facility is not currently operating and not able to meet the new operational standard without the necessary time to purchase, install and test the required equipment, we had not choice but to make this very difficult decision to temporarily lay off most of our workers — some of whom are second- or third-generation Exide employees,” according to Exide CEO Robert M. Caruso.


 Exide officials said they have made arrangements with outside companies to continue battery-recycling operations.


 According to Exide, the temporary layoffs will affect 20 salaried employees and 104 hourly workers.


 Company officials have said they have agreed to invest more than $5 million in the plant over the next two years, bringing the firm’s total investment to more than $20 million since 2010, and reducing arsenic emissions by 95 percent.


 The Exide plant, however, has continued to be targeted by health officials and air-quality regulators. Recent testing found elevated levels of lead in the yards of 39 homes near the plant. The plant was forced to temporarily shut down last year due to arsenic emissions, and the AQMD 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 firm at 2700 S. Indiana St. is one of only two lead-acid battery recycling plants west of the Rockies. In operation since 1922, the plant recycles 23,000 to 41,000 batteries daily.


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April 21, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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