Bill to Fund Exide Cleanup on Its Way to Governor’s Desk

April 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The state Assembly today approved $176.6 million in funding for environmental testing and cleanup work in neighborhoods surrounding the now-shuttered Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant in Vernon.

The Assembly’s approval moves the legislation to Gov. Jerry Brown, who proposed the funding.

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.

“The loan funds in the legislation will speed up the testing and cleanup process for thousands of homes affected by Exide and makes sure the state will go after Exide to get back the money that  is spent cleaning up their mess,” Assembly Speaker Ed Rendon, D-Paramount, said. “… While the
toxic damage has already taken a toll on our communities, the action we are taking today will go a long way toward  restoring the safety and quality of life for the residents harmed by the poisons that Exide dumped  on them.”

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.

Study Finds Children Living Near Exide Have Higher Levels of Lead in Blood

April 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Children who live near the former Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant in Vernon have higher levels of lead in their blood than those who live farther away, according to a report released today by state health officials, who said the age of the homes the children live in was also a
contributing factor.

The study performed by the state Department of Public Health at the request of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, found that children under age 6 who lived near the plant were likely to have more lead in their blood than children in Los Angeles County overall.

According to the study, 3.58 percent of young children who live within a mile of the plant had levels of 4.5 micrograms of lead or more per deciliter of blood. Among children who lived between one and 4.5 miles of the plant, 2.41 percent had 4.5 micrograms or more, the study found.

By comparison, only 1.95 percent of children countywide had such levels of lead in their blood in 2012, state officials said.

According to DTSC, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers 5 micrograms or greater to be an indicator of significantly high lead levels requiring public health action. California’s baseline, however, is 4.5 micrograms.

Although the study focused on proximity to the plant, researchers found that the age of housing was a contributing factor to lead levels, noting that homes closer to the facility tend to be older. The age of housing is significant, since lead levels in paint were not regulated until 1978.

According to the study, 3.11 percent of young children living near Exide in homes built before 1940 had elevated blood lead levels, while only 1.87 percent of children near the plant in homes built after 1940 had elevated levels.

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.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed spending $176.6 million for further testing
and environmental cleanup of the area surrounding the plant. The state Senate approved the funding on Thursday. The issue will now go before the Assembly.

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.

Residents Are the Heroes In Exide Victory

February 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The unrelenting efforts of residents and community activists deserve credit for California Gov. Brown and state legislators securing nearly $177 million for testing and cleanup of properties contaminated by the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon, state and local Latino leaders said today during a news conference at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights.

“This is what community looks like,” proclaimed Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, pointing to the group of residents and activist at his side and in the audience.

“This is a watershed moment for all, but there is still much to do.”

He was referring to the people from Boyle Heights, Commerce, East Los Angeles, Maywood and other southeast communities who have spent decades fighting for the state to hear their pleas for justice for the men, women and children being poisoned by high levels of lead, arsenic and other contaminants from the now closed acid-lead battery recycling plant.

“These are reparations,” pointed out Gladys Limon, attorney for Communities for Better Environment. “While Governor Brown proposed this, it took a long time for him to do so.”

After years of silence, Gov. Brown publicly acknowledged the Exide contamination for the first time Wednesday when he asked state legislators to allocate $176.6 million from the general fund for testing and cleanup on the eastside.

The funds, once approved by the California State Senate and Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee, will come in the form of a loan. The state will then go after Exide and any other parties responsible for contamination to recover the costs.

“I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Boyle Heights resident Terry Cano, who lives in a home with high levels of lead in the soil, during the event. “This is long overdue and we can’t stop fighting until the last house is clean.”

The funds will expedite and expand testing for up to 10,000 homes and remove lead-tainted soil from 2,500 residential properties, schools, daycare centers and parks in the 1.7-mile radius surrounding plant. The multi-million spending plan would increase the number of crews assigned to the week-long cleanups from 2 to 40, according to Barbara Lee, director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Many residents have told EGP over the years they are frustrated with inept oversight by the DTSC, and today, many still say they do not trust the agency to handle the funds or the cleanup moving forward.

DTSC allowed Exide to operate for decades on a temporary permit, even after repeatedly being found to have exposed more than 100,000 people to dangerous levels of lead, arsenic and other chemicals and collecting dozens of hazardous waste violations.

“Let me clear, there is no safe level of lead,” de Leon said today.

Local elected officials came together at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights Friday to praise Eastside residents and environmental activist for pushing the state to  address Exide contamination. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Local elected officials came together at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights Friday to praise Eastside residents and environmental activist for pushing the state to address Exide contamination. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents Boyle Heights, one of the most severely impacted communities, said he’s anxious to see a timeline for the testing and cleanup process, now that funds will finally be available. He wants strict oversight of state regulators, who have moved slowly to protect the community.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia noted that the funds are “just a down payment, not just in funding but the work from elected officials.” Estimates put the entire cleanup at $400 million, possibly making it the costliest environmental catastrophe in California history.

De Leon told EGP that he has serious concerns about the toxics substances control agency’s ability to handle the cleanup, and said that question would be part of his negotiations with governor’s office moving forward.

As EGP first reported, residents and community activists had grown increasingly frustrated and angry over the “double standard” they observed in the treatment of the mostly-white, affluent Porter Ranch gas leak and the blue collar, and the predominately Latino communities affected by Exide’s lead contamination.

They were angry that there had been no public statement from Brown, and the slow pace of the decontamination process.

It was just a few weeks ago that L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said she had tried to reach the governor to ask him to allocate $70 million for the cleanup, but he was unresponsive.

“I called the governor and thanked him for the funds,” she said today about his turnaround.

“I also invited him to come and see what’s going on,” she said in Spanish. “He said ‘we’ll see,’” she said.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said pressure from the community made the difference.

“The community kept elected officials on task,” said Lara.

“I want to personally thank EGP and the Eastside Sun for their incredible investigative journalism for bringing bright sunshine to residents of Boyle Heights and to this incredible environmental crisis,” said de Leon.

Rev. Monsignor John Moretta earlier in the week told EGP that when the community gathered to celebrate the closure of the Exide plant last year, they thought it was a victory. They have since realized that the real work was still ahead.

The same can be said about the state’s funding now, he said. Moretta and several other people said they want an investigation into state regulators and for Los Angeles’ city attorney and the state attorney to bring legal action against Exide, which has abandoned toxic waste sites in five other parts of the country.

This is not the end, he said.

In the end, the event was intended to be a recognition of the community’s activism.

U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra said holding the celebration at Resurrection Church was fitting.

“Folks had to rise from the ashes again,” he said. “Residents had to each add their grain of sand for years, now the governor has added his.”

Gobernador Brown Propone $176.6 Millones para Limpieza de Exide

February 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Durante años las comunidades que rodean a la actualmente cerrada planta Exide Technologies en Vernon han estado luchando para ser escuchadas; primero para forzar la clausura de la planta, después para asegurar una rápida limpieza a fondo de los barrios contaminados por las emisiones tóxicas—algo que muchos creen se estancó debido a la falta de financiación y un sentido de urgencia por parte de oficiales estatales.

Sin embargo, el miércoles el gobernador de California, Jerry Brown dio un paso histórico al abordar la contaminación de Exide proponiendo el gasto de $176,6 millones para acelerar y ampliar pruebas y la limpieza de viviendas, escuelas, guarderías y parques en un radio de 1,7 millas alrededor de la planta de reciclaje de baterías.

Read this article in English: Gov. Brown Proposes $176.6 Million for Exide Cleanup

El plan de gasto multimillonario se detalla en una carta al Senado del Estado de California y a los presidentes del Presupuesto de la Asamblea y del Comité de Asignaciones. Los fondos estarán bajo la forma de un préstamo del Fondo General, y California “vigorosamente perseguirá a Exide y otras partes responsables potenciales para recuperar los costos de esta limpieza”, según la carta del gobernador.

“Esta planta de reciclaje de baterías Exide ha sido un problema desde hace mucho tiempo”, dijo el gobernador Brown en su primera declaración pública sobre Exide. “Con este plan de financiación, estamos abriendo un nuevo capítulo que ayudará a proteger a la comunidad y hacer responsable a Exide”.

Bárbara Lee, directora del Departamento de Control de Sustancias Tóxicas (DTSC) del estado le dijo a reporteros el miércoles que la nueva financiación permitirá a DTSC a contratar a personal adicional para examinar las propiedades restantes en la zona de contaminación y remover el suelo contaminado de 2.500 propiedades marcadas como prioridad.

Actualmente, DTSC sólo tiene dos equipos asignados para la descontaminación a gran escala, pero Lee dijo el miércoles que ese numero podría aumentar hasta por 40 grupos limpiando una propiedad por semana cada uno.

La planta de reciclaje de baterías Exide se encuentra en el 2700 South Indiana St. en Vernon. (DTSC)

La planta de reciclaje de baterías Exide se encuentra en el 2700 South Indiana St. en Vernon. (DTSC)

El gobernador, junto a agencias estatales encargadas de velar por la limpieza de la contaminación generalizada, han sido criticados fuertemente por los residentes, activistas ambientales y funcionarios electos estatales y locales decepcionados con la reacción del Estado a una “epidemia” que ha contaminado hasta 10.000 hogares y expuesto hasta 2 millones de personas en el este y sureste de Los Ángeles a niveles tóxicos de plomo, arsénico y otros químicos.

Mientras algunos aplauden la propuesta del gobernador, la decisión es agridulce.

“Nuestras comunidades han estado luchado durante décadas contra Exide, y con el anuncio de hoy del gobernador Brown, está claro que ha escuchado nuestras llamadas para una limpieza rápida y completa”, dijo Mark López, director ejecutivo de East Yards Comunidades para la Justicia Ambiental.

López dijo que la financiación no es suficiente para completar la limpieza, sino que es el “siguiente paso hacia un largo camino a la justicia en este tema”, después de años de no proteger a la comunidad de Exide y enviar un mensaje claro de que la limpieza será ahora una prioridad para el estado.

El líder del Senado Kevin de León aplaudió al gobernador por el reconocimiento de la “necesidad urgente” de acción de emergencia. Conversaciones en curso con la oficina del gobernador llevaron a lo que ocurrió este día, dijo el senador. “La legislación Urgencia” para apropiar los fondos que se introducirán dentro de la próxima semana más o menos, De León le dijo a los reporteros.

Eso es una buena noticia para los residentes de Boyle Heights quienes el lunes le dijeron a EGP que se habían cansado de asistir a reuniones, y sintieron que era el momento de obtener el peso del gobierno federal detrás de ellos después de no ver ninguna acción real por años de parte de sus funcionarios elegidos.

“Necesitamos que el gobierno federal saque a DTSC fuera de la ecuación y manejen [el problema] ellos mismos”, dijo Terry Cano el lunes.

“Creo que ellos creen que si cierran los ojos y lo ignoran, nosotros nos cansaremos”, dijo Joe González, quien dice que tiene cáncer y tan sólo dos meses de vida.

La comunidad culpa a las agencias reguladoras estatales por permitir a Exide que operara durante 33 años bajo un permiso temporal, a la vez que violaba pese a las reiteradas violaciones de las emisiones contaminantes del aire y el manejo de los residuos o años peligrosos, arrojando niveles tóxicos de plomo, arsénico y otras sustancias químicas que pueden producir cáncer y enfermedades neurológicas en las comunidades de la clase trabajadora en su mayoría de Boyle Heights, Maywood, Commerce, Bell, Huntington Park y el Este de Los Ángeles.

El viernes pasado, diciendo que ya estaba impacientado con DTSC, el concejal de Los Ángeles José Huizar entrometió una resolución firmada por cinco de sus colegas instando al Estado a actuar con rapidez para asignar fondos. Huizar, quien representa y el mismo es un residente de Boyle Heights, también pidió que el abogado de la ciudad Mike Feuer explorara cualquiera de las opciones legales que tiene la ciudad.

Lee respondió a las críticas del gobernador el martes por la noche en una reunión del Comité de la Comunidad Asesor Independiente de Exide.

“Se ha pasado horas hablando de Exide, trabajando en lo que quiere proponer”, dijo, antes de aludir a un anuncio inminente.

Ayer, dijo a periodistas que la propuesta de Brown es un “gran peldaño” para el Estado y una indicación del grado de compromiso que el gobernador tiene con la limpieza.

De León dijo el miércoles que el estado trabajará en estrecha colaboración con el Procurador de EE.UU. para asegurar que Exide haga honor a su acuerdo para pagar la limpieza, o se enfrentan a cargos criminales federales.

La congresista Lucille Roybal-Allard imploró a legislaturas estatales que aprueben de inmediato los fondos para acelerar la limpieza.

“La salud y el bienestar de nuestras comunidades depende de una acción rápida y sostenida por el estado”, dijo. “Hasta la fecha, los esfuerzos del estado han sido peligrosamente lentos y con fondos insuficientes”.

La Ciudad de Commerce emitió un comunicado llamando a la contaminación un “desastre ambiental”, añadiendo que la pruebas y limpieza han sido un “proceso largo y arduo”. El martes, el Consejo pidió al personal que discuta con el estado expandir sus áreas de examen en Commerce.

La asambleísta Cristina García dijo que planea trabajar con sus colegas para crear una exención de CEQA necesarios para efectuar rápidamente las pruebas y limpieza de estas casas.

García y el asambleísta Miguel Santiago planean introducir una legislación proponiendo un impuesto de baterías.

“Esta medida crearía un programa de reciclaje de baterías de plomo-ácido (de carros) por el estado y tienen $1 de ese fondo para volver a pagar el programa de préstamo de $ 176,6 millones”, anunció.

Adicionalmente al examen y limpieza Lee explicó que parte de la financiación de los $176 millones también será utilizada para el desarrollo del personal y la capacitación para el empleo destinado a residentes locales y empresas para ayudar a revitalizar la comunidad. Lee también anunció que el estado está buscando la manera de mejorar la forma de gestionar los residuos y reducir la exposición de plomo, personal adicional está identificando actualmente cómo los fabricantes pueden hacer baterías más seguras para los seres humanos y el medio ambiente.

El anuncio de Brown se produjo después de que la Junta de Supervisores del condado de Los Ángeles votara para enviar una carta a Brown y a los líderes legislativos, pidiendo que se asignen más fondos para los esfuerzos de limpieza, diciendo que los $8.5 millones de dólares propuestos originalmente por el gobernador eran inadecuados.

“Durante mucho tiempo hemos visto dos Américas: una en la que los barrios ricos reciben ayuda inmediata y alivio. La otra América se compone de familias obreras pobres que sufren en silencio”, dijo Solís. “El anuncio de hoy del gobernador reconcilia estas dos Américas”.

La semana pasada por primera vez desde que asumió el cargo, el alcalde de Los Ángeles Eric Garcetti se reunió con algunos residentes de Boyle Heights decepcionados por la falta de acción en nombre de la ciudad.

Garcetti le dijo a EGP que ha dirigido a la Oficina de Saneamiento de LA a trabajar con líderes de la comunidad, Salud Pública del Condado y el DTSC para ayudar a las pruebas de avance y la limpieza y los planes para lanzar una campaña de educación pública para asegurar que más residentes sean analizados para determinar la contaminación por plomo.

“Nadie debería tener que vivir con el temor de riesgos graves para la salud en su propia casa y ningún niño debe ser despojado de la alegría de jugar en su propio patio”, Garcetti le dijo a EGP. “Los que viven en Boyle Heights y las comunidades de los alrededores merecen algo mejor”.

La directora adjunta de DTSC para la Justicia Ambiental y Asuntos Tribales Ana Mascareñas dijo que la agencia está considerando la realización de eventos a gran escala, tales como ferias de salud y centros abiertos de recursos para permitir que los residentes visiten y obtengan información sobre el proceso de limpieza.

Exide acordó en marzo cerrar su planta de reciclaje de baterías de plomo-ácido y pagar $50 millones para la limpieza del sitio y los barrios aledaños.

De esa cantidad, $26 de millones es para ser combinado con $11 millones que en la actualidad están en fideicomiso para cerrar con seguridad la planta, de acuerdo con el DTSC. En agosto, Exide, que se declaró en quiebra en 2013, había pagado $ 9 millones de dólares en un fideicomiso y otros $5 millones se deben pagar en marzo de 2020, según los funcionarios del Estado.

El residente de Boyle Heights Frank Villalobos le dijo a EGP que él estaba eufórico por el anuncio, pero señaló que los fondos sólo abordarán el impacto a la propiedad no a los permanentes daños que residentes enfrentan con las enfermedades causadas por la contaminación.

Por ahora, “nuestras oraciones han sido contestadas”, dijo. “El estado está ahora comenzando a mostrar preocupación”.

—-

Twitter @nancyreporting

nmartinez@egpnews.com

Exide: State to Fund $176M to Speed Up Testing, Cleanup

February 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

For years, communities surrounding the now-shuttered Exide Technologies plant in Vernon have fought to be heard: first to force the closure of the facility and then to ensure a thorough, swift cleanup of neighborhoods contaminated by toxic emissions — something many believe was stalled due to a lack of funding and sense of urgency on the part of state officials.

On Wednesday, Gov. Brown at long last took a major step to address Exide’s contamination by proposing the state spend $176.6 million to expedite and expand testing and cleanup of residential properties, schools, daycare centers and parks in the 1.7-mile radius surrounding the battery recycling plant.

The multi-million dollar spending plan is detailed in a letter to the California State Senate and Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee chairs. The funds will be in the form of a loan from the General Fund, and California will “vigorously pursue Exide and other potential responsible parties to recover the costs of this cleanup,” according the governor’s office.

The now-closed Exide Technologies plant is located at 2700 South Indiana St. in Vernon. (Department of Toxic Substances Control)

The now-closed Exide Technologies plant is located at 2700 South Indiana St. in Vernon. (Department of Toxic Substances Control)

“This Exide battery recycling facility has been a problem for a very long time,” said Brown in his first public statement on Exide. “With this funding plan, we’re opening a new chapter that will help protect the community and hold Exide responsible.”

Barbara Lee, director of the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control told reporters Wednesday the new funding will allow DTSC to hire more staff to test the remaining properties in the contamination zone and to remove lead-tainted soil from 2,500 properties labeled highest priority.

So far, close to 200 homes in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Commerce, Maywood and Huntington Park have been cleaned since the plant was forced to close in April 2015, according to DTSC. Currently, DTSC only has two crews assigned to the large-scale decontamination, but Lee said that number could go up to as many as 40 crews cleaning at least one property each per week.

Senate leader Kevin de Leon applauded the governor for recognizing the “urgent need” for emergency action. Ongoing talks with the governor’s office led to this day, the senator said. “Urgency legislation” to appropriate the funding will be introduced within the next week or so, de Leon told reporters.

While the governor’s proposal is widely welcomed, it’s also bittersweet.

Especially for residents and environmental activists who for years heavily criticized Brown and state agencies overseeing the cleanup for their slow response to the Exide “epidemic,” which may have contaminated 10,000 homes and exposed as many as 2 million people in East and Southeast Los Angeles communities to toxic levels of lead, arsenic and other chemicals.

Brown’s long silence on Exide irked eastside residents who saw his rapid response to the SoCal Gas Co. gas leak in more affluent Porter Ranch and emergency declaration to marshal state resources to deal with the catastrophe as confirmation that there’s a double standard when it comes to the treatment of poor people and communities of color.

“Our communities have been fighting Exide for decades, and with today’s announcement from Governor Brown, it is clear he has heard our calls for swift and comprehensive cleanup,” said Mark Lopez, executive director of East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice.

Lopez, however, pointed out that the funding is not enough to complete the entire cleanup, but called it the “next step in the long road to justice on this issue” after the state failing for years protect the community from Exide. It sends a clear message that the cleanup will now be a priority for the state, Lopez said.

Brown’s proposal comes just two days after a group of Boyle Heights residents told EGP they had grown tired of attending meetings and hearings, and felt it was time to get the weight of the federal government behind them after seeing no real action for years from their elected officials.

“We need the federal government to take DTSC out of the equation and handle it themselves,” Terry Cano said Monday.

“I think they believe if they close their eyes and ignore it, we’ll just die out,” said Joe Gonzalez, who says he has cancer and just two months to live.

They blame state regulatory agencies for allowing Exide to operate for 33 years on a temporary permit, all the while spewing toxic levels of lead, arsenic and other chemicals known to cause cancer and neurological diseases and learning disabilities in the mostly working-class communities.

Last Friday, saying he too had grown impatient with DTSC, Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar intruded a resolution signed by five of his colleagues urging the state to move quickly to allocate funding. Huizar, who represents and is himself a resident of Boyle Heights, also asked that City Atty. Mike Feuer explore what if any legal options the city has.

Huizar said Wednesday the much-needed funds “do right by communities that for so long suffered undue harm because of Exide’s negligence and a complicit state agency that failed to regulate the battery recycling company,” He’s looking forward to seeing a timeline that spells out when testing and remediation will start and how long it will take.

Lee responded to criticism of the governor Tuesday night at a meeting of the Independent Exide Community Advisory Committee.

“He’s spent hours talking about Exide, working on what he wants to propose,” she said before alluding to an impending announcement.

Yesterday she told reporters Brown’s proposal is a “big milestone” for the state and an indication of how committed the governor is to the cleanup.

DTSC workers clean a Boyle Heights home. (DTSC)

DTSC workers clean a Boyle Heights home. (DTSC)

De Leon said Wednesday that the state would work closely with the U.S. Attorney to ensure Exide lives up to its agreement to pay for the cleanup, or face federal criminal charges.

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard implored state legislatures to immediately approve funding to expedite the cleanup.

“The health and well-being of our communities depends on swift and sustained action by the state,” she said. “To date, the state’s effort has been dangerously slow and underfunded.”

The city of Commerce released a statement calling the contamination an “environmental disaster,” adding the testing and cleanup has been a “long and arduous process.” On Tuesday, the council asked staff to discuss with the state expanding its targeted areas in Commerce.

“This long-fought victory is a result of Assembly, Senate and local officials working together to raise the fierce urgency of this issue to the Governor,” said Assembly Speaker-Elect Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) said in response the Brown’s proposal.

Rendon also singled out Assemblymembers “Miguel Santiago and Cristina Garcia for their relentless devotion to restoring justice to East and Southeast L.A. residents victimized by the illegal behavior of Exide management.”

Garcia said Wednesday she plans to work with her colleagues to create a necessary CEQA exemption to expedite the testing and cleanup of these homes.

Garcia and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago also plan to introduce legislation to mandate a fee on car batteries sold in California.

“This measure would create a state mandated Lead-Acid (Car) Battery Recycling program, and have $1 from that fund go to re-pay the $176.6 million loan program,” she announced.

In addition to testing and cleanup, Lee said some of the $176 million would go toward workforce development and job skills training for local residents and businesses to help revitalize the community. Lee also announced the state is looking at ways to improve how they manage waste and reduce the exposure of lead, adding staff is currently identifying how manufacturers can make batteries safer for humans and the environment.

Brown’s announcement came after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to send a letter to the governor and legislative leaders, calling for them to allocate more funding for the cleanup effort, saying the $8.5 million originally proposed by the governor was inadequate.

“For too long we have seen two Americas: one in which affluent neighborhoods get immediate help and relief. The other America is made up of poor working-class families who silently suffer,” Solis said. “Today’s announcement from the Governor reconciles these two Americas.”

Last week for the first time since taking office, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti met with Boyle Heights residents disappointed by the city’s lack of action on their behalf.

Garcetti told EGP he has directed the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation to work with community leaders, County Public Health and DTSC to help advance testing and cleanup and plans to launch a public education effort to ensure that more residents are tested for lead contamination.

“No one should have to live in fear of serious health risks from their own home and no child should be robbed of the joy of playing in their own backyard,” Garcetti told EGP. “Those who live in Boyle Heights and the surrounding communities deserve better.”

DTSC’s Assistant Director for Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs Ana Mascareñas said the agency is considering holding large-scale events such as health fairs and opening resource centers to allow residents to drop in and get information about the cleanup process.

Exide agreed in March 2015 to close its lead-acid battery recycling plant and pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods.

Of that amount, $26 million is to be combined with $11 million currently in trust to safely close the plant, according to DTSC. As of August, Exide, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, had paid $9 million into a trust and another $5 million is due to be paid in by March 2020, according to state officials.

Longtime Boyle Heights resident Frank Villalobos told EGP he was elated by the announcement but pointed out the funds will only address the impact to property and not the permanent damage residents face with illnesses caused by the contamination.

For now, “our prayers have been answered,” he said. “The state is now starting to show concern.”

Brown Announces $176.6M for Exide Cleanup

February 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

In a letter to State Legislators, Gov. Jerry Brown today proposed spending $176.6 million to expedite and expand the testing and cleanup of homes, schools and parks near the now-shuttered Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon.

The letter, sent to the chairs of the Senate and Assembly budget and appropriations committees, says funds will be in the form of a loan from the General Fund, and that California will “vigorously pursue Exide and other potential responsible parties to recover the costs of this cleanup.”

The now-closed Exide Technologies plant is located at 2700 South Indiana St. in Vernon. (Department of Toxic Substances Control)

The now-closed Exide Technologies plant is located at 2700 South Indiana St. in Vernon. (Department of Toxic Substances Control)

“This Exide battery recycling facility has been a problem for a very long time,” Brown said. “With this funding plan, we’re opening a new chapter that will help protect the community and hold Exide responsible.”

The $176.6 million will ensure the Department of Toxic Substances Control is able to test properties, homes, schools, daycare centers and parks within the targeted 1.7-mile radius of the now shuttered battery-recycling plant in Vernon, and remove soil from properties with the highest levels of lead-contaminated soiled, according to the governor’s letter.

The announcement comes following months of growing frustration and heavy criticism by residents, environmental activists and state and local elected officials over the governor’s long silence on Exide, particularly in the wake of his rapid response to the SoCal Gas Co. gas leak in more affluent Porter Ranch, and emergency declaration allowing the state to shepherd state funding and resources to deal with the catastrophe. For years, despite repeated violations of polluting air emissions and handling of hazardous waste, the state had allowed Exide to operate on a temporary permit, allowing the company to continue to decades spew toxic levels of lead, arsenic and other chemicals known to cause cancer and neurological diseases in the mostly working-class communities of Boyle Heights, Maywood, Commerce, Bell, Huntington Park, and East Los Angeles.

Senate Leader Kevin de Leon today applauded the governor for recognizing the “urgent need” for emergency action. Ongoing talks with the governor’s office led to this day, the senator said. “Urgency legislation” to appropriate the funding will be introduced within the next week or so, De Leon told reporters.

“Our communities have been fighting Exide for decades, and with today’s announcement from Governor Brown, it is clear he has heard our calls for swift and comprehensive cleanup,” said Mark Lopez with East Yards for Environmental Justice.

Lopez said the funding is not enough to complete the entire cleanup, but is the “next step in the long road to justice on this issue.”

He said the governor’s announcement is a clear message the cleanup will now be a priority for the state, after years of failing to protect the community from Exide.

DTSC Director Barbara Lee, responded to criticism of the governor Tuesday night at a meeting of the Independent Exide Community Advisory Committee.

“He spent hours talking about Exide, working on what he wants to propose,” she said, before alluding to an impending announcement.

Today she told reporters the proposal was a “big milestone” for the state and an indication of how committed the governor is to the cleanup.

Brown’s announcement came one day after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to send a letter to Brown and legislative leaders, calling for them to allocate more funding for the cleanup effort, saying the $8.5 million originally proposed by the governor was inadequate.

“The state’s numbers indicate that the cleanup could cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis, who said publicly in the past the governor had not responded to her efforts to get him to allocate more state resources to the cleanup.

In October, the board approved $2 million in funding to help speed the cleanup of contaminated soil around the now-closed Exide plant, with Solis saying the state was dragging its feet

Exide agreed in March to close its lead-acid battery recycling plant and pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods.

Of that amount, $26 million will be combined with $11 million currently in trust to safely close the plant, according to DTSC. As of August, Exide, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, had paid $9 million into a trust and another $5 million was due to be paid in by March 2020, according to state officials.

As many as 1,000 homes may be found to have toxicity concentrated enough to qualify as hazardous waste, and the state has estimated that 5,000-10,000 homes may ultimately require some cleanup.

The plant, which produced a host of hazardous wastes, including lead, arsenic and benzene, operated for 33 years without a permanent permit. Efforts to upgrade the equipment and safety procedures repeatedly failed to meet environmental standards.

Though gaseous plant emissions are no longer an issue, lead contamination in the soil, which can cause developmental delays and cognitive impairments, remains a concern.

A public health spokesman has also cited the increased risk of cancer linked to other chemicals once emitted by the plant.

Boyle Heights and Maywood have the highest levels of residential contamination, but the area of exposure stretches to encompass roughly 2 million people, according to Angelo Bellomo, director of the county’s Environmental Health Division.

Information from City News Service used in this article.

[Update 4:40p.m.: correction to funding amount to safely close plant.]

Exide: L.A. Councilman Makes Move to Step In

February 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Saying he’s lost confidence in the state agency overseeing the cleanup of toxic lead contamination from the now closed Exide plant in Vernon, Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar today introduced legislation to urge Gov. Brown and the State Legislature to move quickly to protect the health and safety of families in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and Southeast cities.

Huizar, who represents and is himself a resident of Boyle Heights, said he’s grown impatient with the California Department of Toxic Substances Controls’ “snails pace” in handling of testing and cleanup of the estimated 10,000 homes in the contamination zone.

“We are tired of asking for assistance,” Huizar said during a news conference at City Hall. “We cannot leave this responsibility to DTSC anymore.”

Boyle Heights residents join L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar, center, as he announces a resolution urging the governor and DTSC to expedite the Exide cleanup. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Boyle Heights residents join L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar, center, as he announces a resolution urging the governor and DTSC to expedite the Exide cleanup. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Huizar today introduced a resolution, also signed by several other members of the Council, that calls on the governor or Legislature to make sure DTSC has an adequate plan and funds to execute a full cleanup of lead and arsenic at homes surrounding the Exide plant.

The agency is currently taking public comments on the plan the decontaminate and dismantle the battery-recycling plant in Vernon, but has no complete plan for residential cleanup.

Huizar called the state’s lack of  urgency “astonishing,” given that this “is causing deaths and future harm to our children, and quite frankly a lot of fear and a lot of questions that go unanswered.”

Huizar also introduced a motion at City Council asking City Atty. Mike Feuer to explore what legal options the city has to force the state to act, including the possibility of a lawsuit.

The motion also calls for the appropriate city departments to prepare and submit comment on DTSC’s Draft Environmental Impact Report on Exide’s proposed closure and decontamination plan before the March 28 deadline.

As many 100,000 residents from East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Maywood, Bell and Huntington Park are at higher-risk for neurological diseases, learning disabilities and cancer due to repeated exposure to levels of lead so high they can cause birth defects, learning disabilities, cancer, and other chronic health issues.

Huizar said he is especially concerned with the public right of ways and parks where thousands of families and children gather.

“The city should not be at odds with the state agency responsible for protecting the environmental well-being of the citizens of California,” Huizar said. “Unfortunately, it has come to that point.”

DTSC allowed Exide to operate for over 30 years on a temporary permit despite repeated violations of toxic chemical standards, Huizar said. Exide chose to permanently close the Vernon site after the company struck a deal with the U.S. Attorney’s office to avoid criminal prosecution.

“Governor Brown didn’t get us in this mess…but today we need the governor’s leadership to bring support and get us out of this mess,” he said.

“We need state agencies to treat this like the emergency it is,” he urged.

The councilman said he has little confidence Exide will pay for the cleanup given its bankruptcy status, so it’s going to be up to the State to allocate funding to expedite the cleanup process.

The hefty price tag to fully test and clean every property, which some estimates put as high as $400 million, is keeping DTSC from moving quickly, residents believe.

Exide had so far put up $9 million, the state $7 million and the County of Los Angeles has said it’s allocating $2 million to speed up testing.

According to DTSC, 496 properties have been sampled and a total of 752 access agreements have been signed by property owners. Only 193 homes have been cleaned so far.

Boyle Heights resident Terry Cano was at Huizar’s side when he introduced the resolution. She said a vast majority of people in her neighborhood are dying or living with cancer. She said high levels of lead where found in her home a year ago, but DTSC has yet to clean up the contamination.

“Don’t us as minorities matter, don’t our lives matter,” she asked. “We are victims of Exide and a failed state.”

DTSC Spokesman Sandy Nax told EGP the agency currently only has two crews working on cleanup. Each property takes about a week to be cleaned, limiting the cleanup to two homes per week.

Nax told EGP DTSC is committed to ensuring both the closure and cleanup are conducted in a safe and protective manner.

Cano said the state agency is “dragging their feet” to cleanup contamination that is killing people left and right and could “wipe out a whole minority of people,” she said, struggling to hold back tears.

“How can this be happening in the United States? In Los Angeles?”

As EGP first reported, eastside residents have been frustrated with what they say is a double standard in the state’s swift response to the gas leak in more affluent Porter Ranch. Whereas they’ve been waiting for years for the governor, Legislature and city to act to protect them, it only took Gov. Brown two months to issue a state of emergency in Porter Ranch.

Now that the Southern California Gas Co. gas leak has been temporarily controlled, Huizar said he hopes to see the same type of prompt response from the state in Boyle Heights, no matter how much the cleanup costs. He pointed to the state’s surplus as a source for funding.

“Yes we need to put some away for a rainy day,” said Huizar “But it’s a rainy day here.”

Update: 2-13-16 to remove repeated paragraph.

Assembly Questions Actions on Exide

January 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Years of public outrage over the Exide Technologies’ contamination of cities and neighborhoods in the east and southeast Los Angeles area finally appears to be getting the attention of state legislators, likely in response to growing accusations that California has a double standard when it comes to how it handles environmental and health emergencies in low-income Latino communities.

On Tuesday, the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials held a hearing in Sacramento on plans to decontaminate the site of the now shuttered battery-recycling facility in Vernon believed to have contaminated as many as 10,000 homes and business with lead and arsenic, putting over 100,000 people at a higher-risk for neurological diseases and cancer.

Lea este artículo en Español: Asamblea Cuestiona las Acciones de Exide

It was the first hearing by state elected officials since protests over the plant’s repeated violations of toxic chemical emissions standards became public in 2013.

As EGP first reported, residents from East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Maywood, Bell and Huntington Park have grown increasingly frustrated and angry over the “double standard” they’ve observed in the treatment of the mostly-white, affluent Porter Ranch gas leak and the blue collar, and the predominately Latino communities affected by Exide’s lead contamination.

“Maybe we should call ourselves Boyle Heights Ranch, maybe we’ll get more attention,” Rev. Monsignor John Moretta of Resurrection Church told the committee on Tuesday.

At a press conference before the hearing, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, Speaker-elect Sen. Anthony Rendon and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago called for the state to allocate $70 million out of next year’s budget to pay for cleaning up the most contaminated residential properties.

“An invisible disease has affected these communities, this is a case of environmental injustice,” said Solis, decrying state regulators slow progress in removing soil polluted with lead from east and southeast homes. She suggested the money could be recovered later from Exide. A lawsuit could be required.

“DTSC has not done a good job on the cleanup,” said Rendon. “We need to make sure Exide cleans up the mess it has left in our communities.”

Joining the officials at the press conference and for the hearing was a busload of residents from the impacted areas. They’d traveled to the Capitol to demand the same level of action from the state that is being given to the Aliso Canyon gas leak in Porter Ranch. They told committee members that state regulators need to speed up the removal of lead tainted soil from their homes.

So far, the Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has cleaned about 200 or so properties in the designated contamination zone.

During Tuesday’s committee meeting, Assemblyman Santiago repeatedly asked DTSC Director Barbara Lee whether there are obstacles they can address to increase the number of homes being cleaned every week. She did not respond directly to his inquiries, but said DTSC is cleaning three properties per week. At that rate, it will take seven years to clean 1,000 properties, complained other speakers.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, center, speaks before the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials in Sacramento Tuesday. (Los Angeles County)

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, center, speaks before the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials in Sacramento Tuesday. (Los Angeles County)

“We have a death sentence, we can’t wait any longer” said a tearful Terry Cano of Boyle Heights who traveled the long distance to testify. She alleged that members of her family have died of cancer caused by Exide’s polluting of her community.

Cano also expressed her frustration with the state agency’s focus on the contamination at the now vacant Exide facility instead of focusing on places where people still live.

“This is the equivalent to responding to a burning building and firefighters respond to the fire and not the dying family,” she criticized.

Resentment is growing over Gov. Jerry Brown’s failure to personally address the Exide “catastrophe,” something he has done in Porter Ranch, where he has declared a State of Emergency.

“We can blame DTSC for the handling and enforcement of Exide and for taking so long, but we can’t blame them for the governor not giving them the money to clean up the contamination,” Mark Lopez of East Yards for Environmental Justice told EGP before the hearing.

Lee defended the agency’s actions, pointing out that 22,000 hours of staff time has already been spent working on the Exide closure. She also said the Brown Administration has been very supportive of their work, allocating $7 million in state funding for testing and cleanup.

“I can assure you the governor has us all committed to this site, it’s a priority for us.” echoed Matt Rodriguez of the California EPA,

Local elected officials, however, seemed unconvinced.

“DTSC has failed our community,” Santiago said.

Concern that money is behind the state’s slow response to the clean up.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia called the $8 million in the governor’s budget for the Exide Cleanup “insulting.”

“It feels like the government is just throwing pennies at brown people to keep us quiet,” she said.

She urged the committee to recommend the state dig into the reserves if it has to, to ensure the governor allocates $70 million in this year’s budget.

“We must do the right thing and show the residents from low income communities who are predominately Latino that that they are just as important as our counterparts from affluent communities.”

Jane Williams, executive director for California Communities Against Toxics, suggested state legislators consider a battery tax to help offset costs associated with the cleanup instead of waiting for Exide to allocate funds. She told the committee the battery recycler had a long history of contamination at their plants across the country.

“Exide has a pattern and practice of contaminating communities and leaving contamination behind,” she said.

Huntington Park Mayor Karina Macias testified she has spoken to many residents who are frustrated with the process and just don’t see any clear financial plan or commitment. She also expressed frustration that the committee waited until the end of the four-hour long meeting to hear from the public, the victims in the crisis.

Nearly all of those residents who traveled to Sacramento had to leave the meeting to catch their bus home, only one was left to testify.

“They’ve been waiting for too long,” she said before handing over letters from the community for the record.
Maywood Councilman Eduardo de la Riva said he did not appreciate Exide representatives at the meeting trying to shift the blame for the high levels of lead to other sources, including lead paint, nearby freeways and the industrial setting. He asked that the state agency recognize the cleanup should be their priority.

“We applaud DTSC for the steps they are now starting to take but the damage has been done,” he said. “We must act now.”

A video recording of the hearing can be viewed online at http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=3327

—-

Twitter @nancyreporting

nmartinez@egpnews.com

New Tools, Players Aiding Exide Cleanup

November 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

State workers armed with a new testing tool are canvassing southeast area streets in search of properties contaminated with lead.

The XRF (X-ray fluorescent) devices quickly analyze the metals in soil samples on site, eliminating the need for lab testing and accelerating the testing of residential properties in the process, according to the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the state agency overseeing the clean up of toxic contamination from the now closed Exide acid-lead battery recycling plant in Vernon.

State regulators were given the go-ahead to proceed with testing during a rather testy meeting of the Exide Community Advisory Committee Oct. 28 at Commerce City Hall. Before the meeting, DTSC Director Barbara Lee told EGP the agency was ready to start testing on properties with the highest potential for lead contamination within an expanded 1.7-mile radius of the Vernon facility.

A new online application is now available for residents to request sampling at their property in the expanded north and south areas.

“The department views this cleanup as one of our highest priorities,” Lee said. “We are moving very quickly on parallel tracks to get the Exide site and the residential areas around it cleaned.”

Up to 10,000 homes may need to be tested and decontaminated. As many as two million people may be at elevated risk from their exposure to toxic levels of lead, known to cause neurological damages to children and pregnant woman. The cleanup price tag could go over $400 million.

Mark Lopez, executive director of East Yard Communities, is on the community advisory committee. He told EGP he was not surprised that DTSC has opted to do more testing before moving to clean up.

“At this point, everything with DTSC is a formula,” he said. “They take a long time to do nothing. It’s not until someone else moves forward that they come and say ‘we were going to do that.’”

He was referring to a decision by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors to commit $2 million to help speed up testing. Concerns are growing that the financial settlements reached with Exide by state and federal regulators will not adequately cover the cost of the massive clean up.

DTSC has $8 million in a fund earmarked for closure and post closure costs; an $11 million surety bond and $1 million left from the $9 million fund for residential cleanup, according to DTSC officials.

Sup. Hilda Solis has called on Gov. Brown and the federal government to put up the money needed.

In Commerce, Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca has asked staff to identify city funds that could be used for soil sampling within city borders.

Lopez told EGP there’s more action going on at the local level, such as East Yard Communities volunteers going door-to-door to urge residents to get their homes tested. Volunteers report that most of the people they have spoken to say they’ve never been approached by DTSC, Lopez said.

There have been many complaints that DTSC is taking too long to clean the 170 homes already identified as having high levels of lead. Sup. Hilda Solis has been particularly critical, and last week announced that the County will conduct its own public outreach campaign in predominately immigrant neighborhoods. She said the County would send out promotoras to educate residents about blood lead testing and the importance of requesting cleanup inside their homes

Lee, however, defends testing as a vital part of the decontamination plan. She acknowledges it can be tedious, but says the agency needs the data obtained to hold Exide accountable for the cleanup.

Lopez suggested the agency should hire or train local volunteers that are more than willing to help with the cleanup.

“The folks out here just want this cleanup done,” he said.

According to DTSC, the cleanup process could be aided by local government agencies applying for money from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to remediate lead-paint exposure, and they urged residents to report lead-pain inside their homes.

“That is why our partnership with Los Angeles County and cities in the areas is so important,” said Lee. “These agencies have the authority and expertise to address the paint, while we clean soils contaminated by Exide.”

Exide Batteries Still Selling in East L.A.

October 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Not too far from the now shuttered Exide Technologies plant in Vernon, a car battery shaped sign hangs on a storefront on one of the busiest streets in East Los Angeles, proudly announcing the retailer sells Exide batteries.

The Auto Supply Company on Cesar E. Chavez Avenue is less than five miles south of the embattled acid-lead battery recycler, forced to permanently close in March after years of public outcry over its polluting of local communities and threats of criminal prosecution.

Lea este artículo en Español: Continúa la Venta de Baterías de Exide en el Este de Los Ángeles

Yet, Exide’s poor reputation on the Eastside has not translated to a loss in sales, says Ralph Fernandez, the retailer’s general manager.

According to Fernandez, news that the battery recycler had violated toxic emissions regulations, exposing 110,000 eastside residents to cancer-causing emissions, did not hurt the auto supplier’s sale of Exide batteries. Neither did the forced shut down of the plant as part of a deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that allowed Exide to avoid criminal prosecution over its illegal mishandling of hazardous waste, says Fernandez.

Exide car batteries fill the shelves at The Auto Supply Company store in East Los Angeles, not far from the controversial Vernon-based plant. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Exide car batteries fill the shelves at The Auto Supply Company store in East Los Angeles, not far from the controversial Vernon-based plant. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Unless you consider sales actually increasing.

“There’s just no correlation, people just don’t care unless it affects them directly,” Fernandez said.

He also told EGP, that despite all the negative media fallout, Exide’s parent company has never written to reassure him that the closure would have no impact on their ability to continue to supply him with Exide brand car batteries, one of only three auto batteries still made in the U.S.

All they sent was a letter saying the Vernon plant was closing, Fernandez explained.

Fernandez said he’s confident the batteries will continue to sell at the East L.A. store, despite being a stone throws away from the epicenter of environmental groups condemning the company.

There’s a misconception out there among some that because the Exide plant is contaminated with lead, the company’s car batteries are also contaminated, but that’s simply not true, Fernandez said.

“Lead acid is not in the air during the oxidizing process” when the battery is made, Fernandez explained. It’s only a problem during the recycling process, he said. Exide currently manufactures batteries at its plants in Missouri, Idaho and Kansas.

The store, located in East L.A. since 1969, has been selling Exide batteries for about 15 years. Fernandez said Exide put up the outdoor sign to help the retailer advertise the batteries.

However, the Auto Supply Company is not the only local supplier selling Exide batteries. They can be found at major retailers like Home Depot, and other national and independent auto supply stores and tire shops in southeast and eastside communities.

Consumers find Exide’s “Made in the USA” branding and moderate price attractive. It’s even the official battery for Nascar.

A business in East Los Angeles proudly advertises the Exide car batteries sold inside. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A business in East Los Angeles proudly advertises the Exide car batteries sold inside. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Angel Campos, 44, was at the store Tuesday to purchase car parts. He told EGP he is concerned about a company that does not protect its consumers and contaminates the environment. But when looking to buy a car battery, other priorities come into play.

“I look for a battery with a brand that has a good reputation for making well-performing batteries,” he said in Spanish while standing outside the store.

Fernandez said he thought twice about selling the batteries, but decided to continue selling them since only one customer has ever brought it to his attention.

Nieve Villegas told EGP she doesn’t know what brand of batter her car uses; that’s something she leaves to her husband. “But it surprises me [Exide] would want to sell their products in the community they contaminated,” she said angrily.

In addition to their East L.A. location, the Auto Supply Company has stores in downtown Los Angeles, Huntington Park and Bell Gardens; all three are fairly close to the Vernon plant and other areas known to have been contaminated by recycler.

Fernandez said the store does not plan to reorder Exide batteries when the current inventory sells out. He said the change has nothing to do with the company’s problems in Vernon, but with pricing.

Maria Garcia, 63, is an East L.A. resident and says she doesn’t blame the retailer for selling Exide batteries. She said Exide is solely responsible.

“It’s scary to think that we cannot get away from this company,” Garcia said in Spanish. “The problem is most people just don’t know or care” about these issues.

—-

Twitter @nancyreporting

nmartinez@egpnews.com

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