Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation today providing $176.6 million in funding for environmental testing and cleanup work in neighborhoods surrounding the now-shuttered Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant in Vernon.
“Children should be able to play in yards free from toxics,” Brown said. “With this funding plan, we’re doubling down on efforts to protect the community and hold Exide responsible.”
State officials said the funding would pay for testing of residential properties, schools, day care centers and parks within a 1.7-mile radius of the plant, and fund cleaning of as many as 2,500 properties with the highest lead levels.
There was no immediate word on when the effort would begin or how long it would take. The cleanup effort is subject to an environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.
Assembly Majority Whip Miguel Santiago applauded Gov. Brown for signing the Exide Clean-Up Package comprised of Assembly Bill 118 and Senate Bill 93.
“The Exide Technologies facility has been able to pollute my community unabated for more than 33 years, which is entirely inexcusable,” said Santiago, author of AB 118.
“Today’s action is an historic step toward fully resolving this appalling situation; but make no mistake – our work is not done here.”
The Exide plant permanently closed in March 2015. When Exide agreed to close the lead-acid battery recycling plant, it committed to pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup.
As of last August, Exide, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, had paid $9 million into a trust and another $5 million was due to be paid by March 2020, according to state officials.
Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, called for a fast start to the state’s cleanup efforts.
“We’ve heard the distressing news recently that children living near the closed Exide plant had elevated blood lead levels so there’s no time to waste,” he said. “… I will continue working closely with state and local partners so that the testing and cleanup of homes moves forward expeditiously
and above all, in partnership with the families impacted by the lead contamination. We shouldn’t lose focus of what’s at stake here – restoring a clean and safe environment for our families.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti released a Spanish-language public service announcement, also featuring actress Angelica Vale, urging residents near the plant to have their property tested, and to undergo blood-lead level testing.
“My office will do everything possible to help the (Department of Toxic Substances Control) expedite the cleanup,” Garcetti said. “Identifying the areas and the people affected by lead contamination is a critical first step.”
The city of Commerce, in conjunction with the County health department, will be conducting free confidential lead blood testing at Rosewood Park from 9a.m. to 3p.m. during the annual Kids Are Cute Baby Show. The park is located at 5600 Harbor St. Commerce 90040. For more information, call (323) 722-4805.
EGP staff writers contributed to this report.