Exide to Remain Closed Until Safety Concerns Fixed

By City News Service

Exide Technologies officials were weighing their options Wednesday for the future of the company’s battery recycling plant in Vernon, with air quality regulators and a judge refusing to allow the plant to resume operations without meeting stringent new standards to control arsenic emissions.

Following the Tuesday ruling by the South Coast Air Quality Management District denying Exide more time to install the upgraded “negative pressure” furnaces, Exide officials said they were working to contract with other companies to continue recycling operations.

“Exide continues to work with AQMD, and other local and state regulators on a long-term operational plan for its Vernon recycling plant,” according to a company statement.

Exide officials said they have agreed to invest more than $5 million in the plant over the next two years, bringing its total investment to more than $20 million since 2010.

“Previously completed upgrades to the facility have already achieved a plant-wide 95 percent reduction of arsenic emissions, which has been maintained since 2013,” according to the company.

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. Los Angeles County health officials this week began offering free blood lead screenings for residents.

County health officer Dr. Jonathan Fielding has blasted the Exide operation as a continuing health hazard.

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 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.

The plant has been closed in recent weeks as upgrades were made to the facility. Exide officials said the construction work was likely responsible for recent reports of elevated lead levels in plant emissions.

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April 10, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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