DTSC Orders Exide to Pay Millions

Agreement requires Vernon plant to set aside millions for clean up and fines.

By Nancy Martinez EGP Staff Writer

Just days after some residents speculated that the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) and Exide Technologies were close to some type of agreement, the regulatory agency today announced an enforcement order that will require the acid-lead battery recycler in Vernon to take immediate action in addressing contamination at it’s facility and in surrounding communities.

The order requires Exide to put aside $38.6 million to cover the cost of clean up if the Vernon facility closes. The amount is an increase of over $27.5 million from what was previously required.

“We recognize the community’s concerns and have committed to clean residential properties and work efficiently to minimize disruptions to residents,” said Thomas Strang, Exide’s vice president of environmental health and safety.

“Exide is committed to working with regulators, operating a premier recycling facility, putting our employees back to work, and engaging transparently with the community,” Strang said.

DTSC is also requiring Exide to establish a $9 million trust fund to clean nearby areas impacted by lead contamination.

Community members protest outside Exide Technologies in Vernon earlier this year. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

Community members protest outside Exide Technologies in Vernon earlier this year. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

“This order is a critical and necessary step that outlines the legal obligations that compel Exide to protect the health of people in the community, and provide the funds to do this important work,” said DTSC’s Acting Director Miriam Ingenito.

Ingenito says the agency will begin contacting residents for additional soil sampling beginning Monday. The South Coast Air Quality Management District previously identified 215 homes in the Boyle Heights and Maywood communities as having the highest likelihood of being impacted by airborne emissions from the Vernon facility. So far, 104 homes have been tested but come Monday, DTSC plans to begin the process to test the remaining homes, says Ingenito.

When asked why the state regulator had not taken this type of enforcement action before, Ingenito told EGP that the agency had been working on the enforcement order for some time.

“It is a company in bankruptcy so it adds complications,” she said.

The hazardous waste facility will also have to take immediate steps to correct recent hazardous waste violations, pay DTSC $526,000 in fines related to the violations, and $760,000 to cover the agency’s cost for facility oversight.

Exide, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year, filed legal documents detailing the agreement in bankruptcy court this afternoon. The court must sign off on the agreement for it to be valid.

According to DTSC, the enforcement order will not affect the state agency’s decision regarding Exide’s permit application, which must be finalized by no later than Dec. 31, 2015.

The Vernon-based plant has been operating on a temporary permit for the last 33 years.

The facility has been cited multiple times for higher than allowed emission levels of lead and other toxic chemicals, raising the caner risk for more than 110,000 nearby residents.

On Monday, Supervisor Gloria Molina said she would ask her fellow supervisors next week to authorize county attorneys to pursue legal action against Exide.  Read more here.

[ Updated: 4:40 p.m] addition of quotes by Exide’s Thomas Strang and DTSC’s Miriam Ingenito.

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November 6, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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