The Exide battery-recycling plant in Vernon violated federal limits on lead emissions on more than 30 occasions between September and April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced.
“By releasing an illegal amount of lead into the air, Exide has put the health and well-being of nearby residents at risk,” according to Jared Blumenfield, EPA regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA and the South Coast Air Quality Management District are working closely to ensure the company comes into compliance with state and federal law.”
Officials with Exide noted that the plant has been out of operation since March to undergo a series of upgrades.
“For the last several months, Exide has been working to upgrade its Vernon facility and ensure that the recycling plant can operate in a way that protects the health and safety of the local community,” according to E.N. “Bud” DeSart, senior director of commercial operations for the Exide recycling group. “The company is dedicated to investing the time and money needed to improve the Vernon facility so it can resume recycling more than 9 million batteries per year while complying with the strictest emission standards in the nation.”
According to the EPA, lead emissions from the plant exceeded federal Clean Air Act standards on Sept. 9 and 18 of last year, Jan. 2-3 and from March 22 through April 19 of this year.
The company has 10 days to respond to the EPA’s notice of violation. The company could face penalties of $37,500 per day for each violation, according to the EPA.
“Today’s announcement…only strengthens my belief that this company should not be allowed to continue emitting pollutants into the air we breathe,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard who represents the 40th district, which includes the city of Vernon, Huntington Park, Maywood and Commerce.
“Exide should stay closed until it can prove beyond any doubt that it will no longer emit harmful pollutants into our communities.”
Testing earlier this year 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.
The firm at 2700 S. Indiana St. is one of only two lead-acid battery recycling plants west of the Rockies and recycles 23,000 to 41,000 batteries daily.
Exide officials have said some recent elevated emissions were likely the result of construction work being done at the plant to install upgraded equipment. Company officials have said they have agreed to invest more than $5 million in the plant over the next two years and reducing arsenic emissions by 95 percent.