Residents Demand State Agencies Clean Exide Contamination Now

August 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

For the first 17 years of his life, Jose Anthony Gutierrez lived in Vernon, not too far from the now closed Exide Technologies plant. He says he is living proof that Exide is to blame for many of the health issues in surrounding communities.

“Take a long hard look at me,” Gutierrez told state regulars last week during a public meeting of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) community advisory group at the Salt Lake Park Community Center in Huntington Park.

“I may look 14 but I’m actually 25 years old,” Gutierrez said. “Doctors told me I shouldn’t be alive today.”

According to Gutierrez, he and his family lived in Vernon because it was what they could afford. When he nearly died of cancer caused by years of lead exposure, the family decided to move to Huntington Park, one of the cities reeling from the fallout of Exide pollution.

Jose Anthony Guitierrez holds up a map depicting how close he lived to the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon during a public meeting last week.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Jose Anthony Guitierrez holds up a map depicting how close he lived to the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon during a public meeting last week. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“The sad part is I’m still being exposed to arsenic and god knows what else,” he said tearfully.

Just over a week ago, DTSC revealed that as many as 10,000 homes could be contaminated with lead spewed by the former acid-lead battery recycler. State regulators said soil sampling was expanded to a larger geographical area and tests showed a much higher number of properties contaminated than previously believed.

Angry residents living within the contamination zone — from Huntington Park, Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, East Los Angeles and other areas near Vernon — packed the advisory committee meeting last Thursday and loudly demanded the state agency immediately begin what could turn out to be the biggest environmental cleanup and public health disaster in California history.

Throughout the meeting, speakers decried DTSC’s years of poor regulation of Exide and voiced distrust of the agency’s ability to handle the cleanup.

“Now no one is willing to take responsibility and pay for the harm,” said Maria Flores, scolding DTSC officials for allowing Exide to continue to operate on an interim-permit for decades despite numerous toxic emission-related violations.

With her elderly father at her side, Flores said he and her husband are very ill. She blames Exide where both men worked for years for her family’s ailments.

“My son was conceived and born while my husband worked there,” she said, struggling to hold back tears. “He has severe learning disabilities. He is a seventh grader with a third grade learning capability,” she told officials and their advisors.

Exposure to lead has been linked to learning disabilities and birth defects. Children are especially at risk because they play in the dirt, according to health and environment experts.

Young children who are exposed to lead may also suffer from damage to the brain and nervous system, behavioral problems, anemia, liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, hyperactivity and in extreme cases death, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Lead poisoning in adults can cause poor muscle coordination, nerve damage, increase in blood pressure, hearing and vision impairment and reproductive problems.

According to Flores, the car her father drove to work was found to have high levels of lead. He parked the vehicle across the street or in the parking lot of the facility every day for 27 years, she said.

He would load the family into that same car, she said angrily.

Participants at the meeting demanded that the cleanup be done immediately. Questions whirled about the cost and who would pay.

Decontamination costs for the much larger number of properties is going to skyrocket, according to experts. DTSC Chief of Permitting Rizgar Ghazi said the clean up of the Exide plant alone would cost the company $26 million.

Last year, Exide struck a deal with federal authorities and state regulators to permanently close down and set aside $9 million to cleanup 219 homes in exchange for avoiding federal criminal prosecution for its illegal handling of hazardous waste.

So far, lead-tainted soil has been removed from 150 homes north and south of the plant. An additional 146 homes have been tested in an area beyond the initial scoping area to determine how far Exide’s contamination reaches.

DTSC Director Barbara Lee informed the crowd that the $7 million received from the state last week would be used to “swiftly” clean homes with lead levels above 1,000 parts per million and to conduct additional testing in the expanded zone, which now includes Commerce as well as Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park.

“How many times have we heard that,” several people in the audience scoffed over the use of the word “swiftly.”

DTSC officials continued to emphasize the agency’s commitment to cleaning up the community and holding all responsible parties accountable.

A capability many in the audience questioned.

Boyle Heights resident Yolanda Gonzalez and other speakers urged elected officials and state regulators to push California, Gov. Brown specifically, to declare a state of emergency and for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to step in and coordinate a mass evacuation from homes.

Hundreds of angry residents attended the DTSC advisory meeting in Huntington Park Thursday regarding the extent of Exide's lead contamination. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Hundreds of angry residents attended the DTSC advisory meeting in Huntington Park Thursday regarding the extent of Exide’s lead contamination. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Families should be relocated and compensated for their homes and their sickness, Gonzalez said.

The cost to cleanup one residential property stands at $39,000, according to Ghazi.

Lee said DTSC is working to secure funds for the expanded residential cleanup, which could reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia represents Commerce and says she does not want any more funds used for testing: “We just need to clean up,” she said impatiently.

DTSC officials countered that testing is necessary to helps prioritize cleanup of properties with the highest contamination. Lee said the agency and its partners are looking at chemicals that could be the “smoking gun” to directly link the contamination to Exide.

Her words seemed to do little to move the hundreds of residents at the meeting to have faith in the agency’s plan.

“No matter what is in that soil, it’s a result of your failure,” said Terry Cano. “Clean it up first and figure it out later.”

Exide Taint Blows Over to City of Commerce

August 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The City of Commerce had joined a long list of communities affected by lead contamination from a Vernon-based battery recycling plant permanently closed in March for hazardous waste violations.

The disturbing news was announced last week by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which said it used wind pattern modeling to add Commerce to the soil sampling target zone. Five to 10,000 properties could be contaminated with lead from the Exide Technologies plant, according to state toxic chemical regulators.

Exide’s troubling history of toxic chemical air emissions and hazardous waste violations has sparked outrage and protests in an area that runs from Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and several Vernon-adjacent Southeast cities.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, pictured center, demands that cleanup of lead contaminated homes begin immediately after learning testing will expand to Commerce. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, pictured center, demands that cleanup of lead contaminated homes begin immediately after learning testing will expand to Commerce. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Commerce City Administrator Jorge Rifa told EGP said they are in the “very early stages” of understanding the “scope and extent” of the damage in Commerce, but said city staff and the city council will do everything within their jurisdiction to address the problem.

“We are working really hard and the council is very concerned,” Rifa said. “This is something new for all of us … We don’t want to overstate or play down the problem.”

Like Vernon, Commerce is also an industrial city, the biggest difference Commerce has over 13,000 residents compared to about 200 Vernon residents.

News that toxic pollution from Exide had made its way to homes in Commerce caught many in the city by surprise.

City Planner Jose Jimenez told EGP he attended a public meeting in Boyle Heights Aug. 13 and there was no discussion of possible lead contamination in Commerce.

Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca del Rio attended last week’s meeting and told EGP she was taken aback by the news.

She said Vernon needs to revise its policies regarding the types of businesses is allows to operate in that city because they not only impact Vernon, but other communities as well.

Del Rio said she is committed to working on the issue with representatives from all the affected areas.

Last Friday, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who represents Commerce, issued a statement demanding the immediate cleanup of contaminated properties and for DTSC to not spend more time on site testing.

“This contamination is now more widespread and my first concern is with the immediate health of citizens in the City of Commerce, especially our most vulnerable, such as pregnant women and young children who may come in contact with contamination in their yards or at the playground,” Garcia said.

“The continued testing is expensive and continues to only reaffirm what the scientific models show to be the likely spread of the contaminant,” she added.

But according to DTSC spokesperson Sandy Nax, additional testing is needed to identify the locations of lead deposits and concentrations before cleanup can begin.

“Testing also helps with prioritizing cleanup of properties with the highest contamination,” he told EGP.

The northern part of the Union Pacific Railyard is believed to be most affected, Rifa said. The city council has schedule the issue for discussion at its Sept. 8 meeting. DTSC will brief the council on the results of their findings and answer questions, he said.

In the meantime, Garcia’s office reported that DTSC is working on a letter/email that in the next few days will be sent to residents in the impacted area.

“This letter/ email will just explain what is currently going on and what the next steps are,” states Garcia’s office.

With the information being so fresh, city staff told EGP many residents and business owners may not yet be aware of the latest findings.

“I haven’t heard from any business owner” as of yet, Deputy City Administrator Fernando Mendoza told EGP.

“In talking with our Environmental Health and Safety team, we haven’t received any notification from a regulator about possible effect on our business,” Commerce-based Unified Grocers spokesperson Paul Dingsdale told EGP. “We would not anticipate any issues, based on our team’s review.”

Eddie Tafoya, executive director of the city’s Chamber of Commerce Industrial Council, told EGP Tuesday they had only just recently heard the news and are still getting caught up on the issue.

While many in the city expressed surprise over the latest DTSC pronouncements, Commerce is not new to the controversy. In 2013, the city council sent a letter to Vernon requesting they close the plant, but according to Rifa, they never received a response.

The issue could be tricky for Commerce, which also has a large industrial base and is home to one of the busiest railyards in the country, two known sources of pollution.

Unlike Vernon, however, residents in the city have a strong history of pushing environmental concerns, such as pushing to stop trains from idling near homes and most recently a ban on idling by large trucks in order to decrease the harmful effects of diesel emissions to residents and workers in the city.

Baca del Rio said she is expecting to get funding as soon as possible to clean the contamination. “Just because we are minorities that doesn’t mean [big corporations] can come and pollute our city.”

Garcia said she is committed to work with Commerce, residents, the advisory board and DTSC to keep the public informed about “this hazard and the health screenings needed” to move the community forward.

Due to privacy and confidentiality concerns, DTSC will not release information about private property owners and residents, including who is being tested or the results, stated Garcia.

Rifa encouraged those who may be concerned to visit their doctor and to be tested for lead. Following other simple directions, such as removing shoes before entering a house, also makes sense, Rifa said.

“The test will show whether the level is above the Centers for Disease Control’s acceptable limits, and whether medical attention is needed,” said Rifa.

 

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is still testing the blood-lead levels of residents near the Exide facility. Those interested can sign up for the testing at www.bloodleadtesting.com or by calling toll-free:1-844-888-2290. 

 

Angry Residents Decry Handling of Exide Cleanup

August 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Fuming over news that as many as 10,000 homes could be contaminated with lead spewed from the now closed Exide Technologies plant in Vernon, hundreds of people on Thursday demanded state regulators immediately begin clean up of what could turn out to be the biggest “environmental clean up and public health disasters in California history.

“If you can’t handle the problem get out of the way and let federal government step in,” insisted Terry Cano, a resident of Boyle Heights whose home was found to have higher than safe levels of lead but has not yet been decontaminated.

“I don’t care where it came from, just clean it up,” she said angrily during a public meeting of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) community advisory group in Huntington Park at the Salt Lake Park Community Center.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (pictured second to right) demands that clean up of lead contaminated homes begin immediately. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (pictured second to right) demands that clean up of lead contaminated homes begin immediately. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

DTSC revealed just over a week ago that the agency had expanded soil sampling for lead to a larger geographical area and the tests revealed much higher numbers of property contaminated with the toxic chemical than previously believed.

“We have preliminarily estimated the number of residential properties potentially affected could be five to six thousand, or as high as nine to 10 thousand,” Lee said. “It is certainly a large extent of impact.”

Angry residents living within the contamination zone — from Huntington Park, Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, East Los Angeles and other communities near the former lead-battery recycling and smelting plant packed — packed the advisory committee meeting and loudly demanded the state agency admit its failures and speed up the clean up.

DTSC will use $7 million it received from the state Thursday to swiftly clean homes with lead levels above 1,000 parts per million, agency Director Barbara Lee told the loud crowd Thursday.

The state’s money will be added to the $9 million Exide was forced to place in a community trust fund as part of an agreement to avoid federal criminal prosecution for its illegal handling of hazardous waste.

Lee said half of the funds would be used to conduct additional testing in the expanded zone, which will now include Commerce as well as Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park.

The comments struck a nerve with Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia who represents Commerce.

“We don’t need testing, we just need to clean up,” she said. “Three million [dollars] should not be going to testing!”

Several members of the community advisory committee, which is supposed to be providing input and oversight for the clean up process, also expressed distrust in DTSC’s ability to handle the cleanup.

“We don’t want you to be sorry,” a visibly agitated Teresa Marquez said. “Its time for the governor to know, its time for Obama to know.”

Hundreds of angry residents attended the DTSC advisory meeting in Huntington Park Thursday regarding the extent of Exide's lead contamination. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Hundreds of angry residents attended the DTSC advisory meeting in Huntington Park Thursday regarding the extent of Exide’s lead contamination. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

It’s time for California to declare a state of emergency and for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to step in and coordinate a mass evacuation from homes, some speakers said.

Exposure to lead has been linked to learning disabilities and birth defects. Children are especially at risk because they play in the dirt, according to health and environment experts.

The $9 million Exide set aside was to pay for the cleanup of 219 homes north and south of the plant. So far, lead-tainted soil has been removed from 146 homes. An additional 146 homes were tested in an area beyond the initial scoping area to determine the extent of Exide’s contamination.

Media reports have placed the cost between $150 million to $200 million. According to Lee, DTSC is working to secure funds for the expanded residential cleanup.

DTSC Chief of Permitting Rizgar Ghazi explained the cost to clean up the Exide plant site would cost the company $26 million.

“Leave Exide the way it is, use that money to clean up the community,” demanded Miguel Alfaro of Boyle Heights. “Leave the building up as an example of your lack of enforcement.”

Exide Tainted Homes Could Be In the Thousands

August 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

As many as 10,000 homes near a shuttered battery-recycling plant may be contaminated, state regulators said last week.

The announcement by the Department of Toxic Sub stances Control substantially increases the number of homes the state agency previously believed were contaminated by emissions of lead from the Exide Technology plant in Vernon.

DTSC Director Barbara Lee said lead sampling was expanded to a larger geographical area and revealed that more people within one to three miles of the Exide plant could be living on property contaminated with the toxic chemical.

“We have preliminarily estimated the number of residential properties potentially affected could be five to six thousand, or as high as nine to 10 thousand,” Lee said. “It is certainly a large extent of impact.”

The new estimates potentially make it one of the largest environmental clean ups and public health disasters in in the state’s history.

Exposure to lead has been linked to learning disabilities and birth defects. Children are especially at risk because they play in the dirt, according to health and environment experts.

Earlier this year Exide struck a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice to close the Vernon plant and pay for the clean up of lead-contaminated homes in lieu of criminal prosecution. Exide set aside $9 million to pay for the cleanup of 219 homes north and south of the plant. So far, lead-tainted soil has been removed from 146 homes. An additional 146 homes were tested in an area beyond the initial scoping area to determine the extent of Exide’s contamination.

“Cleanup in this area will happen but it is not required,” Lee said.

She would not specify how much it would cost to clean the thousands of homes state regulators now believe may be contaminated. “It’s safe to say it’s going to be an expensive cleanup.”

Media reports have placed the cost between $150 million to $200 million. According to Lee, DTSC is working to secure funds for the expanded cleanup.

There may be other parties also potentially responsible, said Lee, explaining the state agency is looking at particle samples that could be the smoking gun linking Exide to the contamination.

“We are working hard to make sure that everybody who contributed to the contamination contributes to the cleanup.”

Communities Near Exide Put DTSC on Notice

June 25, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Only a few dozen people showed up last week for a meeting billed as a chance for residents to learn more about the process to clean up contamination at the shuttered Exide plant in Vernon, prompting several people to again criticize the Department of Toxic Substance Control for its “poor outreach.”

The low-turnout is just another example of DTSC’s failure to keep residents informed about the hazardous waste polluter, several speakers complained.

“There’s a long history of injustice in this whole Exide issue,” Mark Lopez, of East Yard Communities told EGP. “There is a continuance of frustration over the inclusion of the community and the inadequate outreach by DTSC.”

Excide Technologies, a lead-acid battery recycler and smelter, was forced to close down in order to avoid federal charges related to its long history of hazardous waste violations. They have been fined millions of dollars to pay costs associated with the clean up of toxic chemicals at their Vernon plant and contaminated properties in surrounding communities.

Dozens of residents from Huntington Park to Boyle Heights attended DTSC’s scoping meeting June 18 at Maywood City Hall.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Dozens of residents from Huntington Park to Boyle Heights attended DTSC’s scoping meeting June 18 at Maywood City Hall. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Before that process starts, however, DTSC must prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) to identify the potential impacts and mitigations expected to take place during the closure process.

Last week’s scoping meeting was a chance for residents in Maywood and other communities to tell state regulators what they want included in the report.

However, it’s the middle of graduation season and Bell Gardens High School, where many local families send their children to school, has their graduation ceremony tonight, so they are not here, Lopez pointed out.

“This could have easily been avoided had [DTSC] done their research on the community,” he said. “It’s DTSC’s job, they have the staff for outreach.”

It should not be so hard for people to get their voices heard, echoed Jessica Prieto of East Los Angeles.

According to DTSC, the agency has held six meetings in Boyle Heights and Maywood since Exide was closed.

Most people at the meeting are already informed and involved, and regularly attend meetings on Exide, said frustrated residents, accusing DTSC of not doing enough to reach out to the people who don’t already attend meetings.

“It seems like you are just going through the motions,” said Aide Castro, a Maywood business owner and aid to Assemblyman Anthony Rendon.

She wanted to know why local business owners like her, and the nearly 40 members of the new Advisory Board overseeing the plant closure were not notified about the meeting.

“I didn’t say anything [before the meeting] on purpose, to see if you would send it,” she said. “If we’re not receiving a flyer it’s hard to phantom the community outreach is being done effectively.”

According to DTSC, however, board members were given a list of meeting dates during their first meeting on May 28 and the scoping meeting was discussed in depth during the June 11 advisory group meeting. DTSC spokeswoman Tamma Adadamek told EGP the agency enlists the help of members of the Community Advisory Group to share information discussed at our monthly meetings.

Site Project Manager Su Patel said DTSC mailed the meeting notice to 2,700 area residents and that hundreds of others on the agency’s email blast received an electronic notice.

That’s why it’s always the same people attending the meeting, complained Maywood Councilman Oscar Magaña, That number is much too low given that as many as 375,000 people live in Boyle Heights, Commerce, East Los Angeles, Maywood, Huntington Park and Vernon.

“I’m sure you’ve heard enough from these people,” he told regulators; you have to do something different. “The schools are usually a great place to pass out information around,” Magaña said.

But in addition to mailing out and emailing information according to DTSC, representatives have called and visited the homes of dozens and dozens of residents in the area. Adamek added that the agency regularly updates their website with new information about the Exide cleanup and closure.

The agency also holds a conference call every two weeks with community leaders to share information on the project, she added.

Boyle Heights resident Doelorez Mejia attends nearly every meeting related to Exide. She said holding the meeting in the southeast city of Maywood shows DTSC is starting to listen to the community, but pushed the agency to do much outreach.

“Put yourself on the agenda of the local school districts,” she suggested.

Magaña also recommended DTSC reach out to environmental justice groups, especially those already involved with the fight against Exide.

“Those people have experience canvassing, I bet you they would be more than willing to help,” he said, prompting applause from the audience.

Many of the people living in the neighborhoods and cities surrounding Exide are undocumented and fear retribution if they speak out, said Lopez, who is community co-chair of the Exide Advisory Board. He believes some people fear they will be forced to move if DTSC or other agencies get wind that they live in homes with unpermitted improvements, such as converted garages.

“This has led everyday residents and organizations to step in and fill the role of organizing the community,” he added. “There have been some improvements by DTSC, but a lot of that has been a result of pressure from the community.”

In an email to EGP DTSC officials said all the comments and questions raised by the community are being considered.

“We are happy to have suggestions on how to better reach the community. We want them to be informed about the closure, and they know best how they can be reached,” said Adamek.

Residents have until June 29 to submit comments regarding the Notice of Preparation. They will get a second chance when the DEIR is presented sometime in September, as well as have a chance to comment on the closure plan once it is approved.

The agency said the first phase of closure will take between 19 to 22 months and will include removing equipment and contaminated soil and demolishing buildings “down to dirt.” That phase is expected to take place sometime in Spring 2016.

Exide Advisory Group Assembles

June 4, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

For the past couple of years, Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights has been the epicenter of the movement to close down the Exide battery-recycling plant in Vernon, a role it continued to play last week as host to the first meeting of a new advisory committee charged with overseeing closure of the controversial facility and the cleanup of lead and arsenic contamination left in its wake.

The May 28 meeting had all the trappings of a traditional city council or commission meeting, including the requisite agenda, minutes and following of parliamentary procedure.

Gone were the loud protests and chants of past meetings in the Church Hall.

In many ways, it was a solid step into the future for a community that had long felt marginalized by state pollution regulators.

The inagural meeting of the Exide Advisory Group was held May 28 at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights.  (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

The inagural meeting of the Exide Advisory Group was held May 28 at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights. (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

“This is where partnership begins,” Barbara Lee, director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, said enthusiastically at the inaugural meeting of the Exide Advisory Group.

At 37 members, the unusually large committee is made up of people representing the community, regulatory agencies and elected officials. Because the impacted community is so large, we felt that a larger number of committee members was appropriate, said DTSC Spokesman Sandy Nax.

The committee is scheduled to meet once a month to review specifics of the closure process, and to raise questions as they did last week on such things as where toxic soil will be moved. Committee members are the liaison between the community and state regulators performing the day-to-day work on the cleanup of toxic chemicals at the plant and in surrounding communities.

“Now we have the tools and all the stakeholders involved…you really can bring about change” Lee told the group.

The advisory committee was formed in response to an avalanche of negative public opinion resulting from DTSC’s poor response to the community’s concerns about the toxic chemicals illegally spewing from the now-closed Vernon plant.

Lee, who took over the top DTSC post just a few months ago, pledged earlier this year to ensure the community would have its say in the future. The advisory committee helps Lee make good on that promise.

DTSC Deputy Director Jim Marxen said the committee’s work is intended to compliment the public hearings that will take place. They will give the community another opportunity to voice their concerns during the closure process, he said.

“The group will be involved early on in the process” … helping to bring about change and “save each other time” by “communicating the needs of the community,” Marxen said.

Advisory committee members are expected to come prepared to share ideas and provide comment on closure and cleanup related materials, and preparation of documents needed to comply with CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act.

“We have never demolished a facility of this risk,” pointed out Jane Williams of Desert Citizens Against Pollution, referring to the magnitude of the hazardous waste cleanup

First, however, the group must hire a technical advisor to explain the large volume of technical data committee members will be asked to review before they take action.

The committee must also select a community co-chair to join Lee and South Coast Air Quality Management District Director Barry Wallerstein in moderating the meetings and setting the tone for discussions.

Looking around the room last week, Mark Lopez with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice pointed out that only a quarter of the committee’s 37 members do not represent either a public official or public agency.

“It’s a little concerning,” he said.

But according to Lee, over a third of the committee’s members are from the community.

“We really tried to be inclusive,” she said. “I want the group to be effective,” she said, explaining why she does not think it a good idea to add more people to the committee.

Last Thursday’s meeting demonstrated that the group reflects many points of view, and that members are willing to speak frankly about our work, said Nax.

Marxen told committee members that they are tasked with communicating and educating their respective constituencies about the closure process, which formally started in April.

The permanent shut down comes following years of hazardous waste violations by Exide that exposed over 110,000 people in neighborhoods and cities from East Los Angels to Maywood to toxic levels of arsenic and lead, chemicals known to cause cancer and neurological disorders, learning disabilities and other health issues.

In March, the U.S. Attorney’s office struck a deal with Exide that would allow the company and executives to avoid criminal prosecution in exchange for the permanent closure of the Vernon plant and total cleanup of the site and properties found to have been contaminated.

The first phase of closure which will include the demolishing of buildings, is expected to take between 19 to 22 months, according to DTSC.

The next advisory meeting will take place some time in June in the city of Maywood. Meetings are open to the public.

DTSC Director Apologizes to Eastside Residents

April 10, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

[Updated: April 16, 12p.m.]

“I’m sorry.” Two words Eastside residents never thought they would hear from the state agency charged with regulating a controversial Vernon-based acid-lead battery recycler found to have repeatedly violated toxic chemical air emissions standards.

For the first time since taking the helm of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, Director Barbara Lee personally addressed a public meeting discussing the now-closed Exide Technologies plant. DTSC has been heavily criticized for “failing” to protect the public from arsenic and lead emissions, chemicals known to cause cancer and neurological damage.

“I know many feel the department has failed you, I want to start of by saying I’m very sorry,” Lee told hundreds of residents and environmental activists during a meeting April 9 at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights to discuss Exide’s closure plan.

The tone at last week’s meeting was quieter and less combative then past meetings, but skepticism and mistrust still hung heavy in the air.

“We want to know what happened …we want to know who is responsible,” demanded Mark Lopez, director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justices.

DTSC Director Barbara Lee apologizes to eastside residents Thursday at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

DTSC Director Barbara Lee apologizes to eastside residents Thursday at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Lopez asked Lee if she would consider opening a criminal investigation into DTSC’s handling of the Vernon plant, which it allowed to operate on an interim permit for decades despite being found to have exposed eastside residents to cancer-causing toxins.

Lee did not at first directly respond to the request, instead denying any criminal activity on the part of the department, but Lopez pressed on.

“We want accountability. What happened before was not your fault, but moving forward is all your responsibility,” said Lopez, drawing loud applause from the approximately 200 people at the meeting.

“Would you be willing to let me think about it?” Lee asked.

Dozens of members of the Los Angeles Latino Business Chamber of Commerce attended the Distinguished Speakers Series event April 10. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Dozens of members of the Los Angeles Latino Business Chamber of Commerce attended the Distinguished Speakers Series event April 10. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Lopez agreed, explaining he didn’t expect the DTSC director to make a decision right then and there. “I just want to make sure you respond on the record in front of all of us,” he said.

Lee was appointed to head DTSC about four months ago and was not part of the protracted battle to shutter the troubled plant, but said she understands why residents mistrust the agency.

“It’s important we do not let this happen again,” she said, promising to do things differently moving forward.

For more than a decade, area residents complained to DTSC and the South Coast Air Quality Management District about Exide, but it took an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office to permanently close down the facility.

Federal authorities announced last month that they had struck a deal to close the plant in exchange for Exide and its executives avoiding criminal prosecution for their illegal handling of hazardous waste. The deal requires Exide to pay the entire cost to clean its plant and homes in the surrounding community found to have been contaminated. DTSC will oversee the closure and clean up.

“We won folks,” Monsignor John Moretta happily told the crowd.

However, not everyone is as convinced or ready to forgive.

“I don’t want to hear I’m sorry because nobody is more sorry than me,” said a tearful Terry Cano before she shared that her father had died from cancer she believes was caused by Exide’s emissions.

“You’re telling me this is the best you can do,” she said, angry that there will be no criminal prosecutions.

Boyle Heights resident Terry Cano shared her concerns with the way DTSC handled the Exide plant in Vernon last week at Resurrection Church. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Boyle Heights resident Terry Cano shared her concerns with the way DTSC handled the Exide plant in Vernon last week at Resurrection Church. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The meeting drew residents from Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Maywood, Commerce and Huntington Park, the area most heavily impacted by Exide generated pollution. Several people said the deal did not do enough to compensate the people harmed by the Vernon plant.

Teresa Marquez told Lee she believes the director wants to move the agency forward, but questioned whether any DTSC employee had been fired over the agency’s handling of the facility.

Lee said DTSC is being overhauled and new deputy directors have been brought in to replace staff no longer at the agency.

That prompted Lopez to again push for a criminal investigation.

“We want to know where they are now and if they are working for another similar agency making those same [bad] decisions,” he said. There is no victory until a closer look is taken at the systemic problems that allowed a company like Exide to keep polluting the community for so long, without that, real change is not possible, Lopez said.

A Huntington Park resident asked Lee to consider expanding the area being tested for lead and arsenic to include more nearby communities. Currently, testing is focused on East L.A., Boyle Heights and Maywood, which Lee explained was determined by AQMD modeling that identified the areas most likely to be contaminated.

“Predictions also come in the form of weather forecasts and they’re not always right,” the resident responded.

DTSC Director Barbara Lee, pictured right, apologizes to eastside residents at Resurrection Church April 9 (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

DTSC Director Barbara Lee, pictured right, apologizes to eastside residents at Resurrection Church April 9 (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Moving forward, Exide has to submit a closure/post closure plan to DTSC by May 15. The agency will review the plans for compliance then present the plan to the public for comment sometime in the fall. Removal of the buildings and structures at the site is expected to start in spring 2016 and take 19-24 months to complete.

“For too many years we did not listen well to you,” Lee told the audience, acknowledging that many residents are not yet ready to trust the agencies responsible for regulating Exide.

“I don’t expect by standing here I will change that, I have to earn your trust,” she said. “I can’t promise you I will always get it right, but I will always give it my best. I hope you will be ready to take one step forward with us,” she said.

“It’s refreshing to hear a different tone,” remarked Maywood Councilman Oscar Magaña.

But for Boyle Heights resident Joe Gonzalez, the fight is far from over.

“We haven’t won,” he said, “we just threw the first punch that will change the momentum.”

 

 

Community Celebrates Exide Closure, But Doubts Remain

March 19, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

When news broke last summer that a grand jury was investigating Exide Technologies, community activists celebrated with cake and pizza at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights.

Last weekend, following the announcement that the U.S. Attorney had reached an agreement to close down the plant permanently, they were back at the Church, this time celebrating with tequila and champagne.

Over 200 people were on hand to exalt the closure of the embattled acid-lead battery recycling plant in nearby Vernon.

Environmental activist joined together last week in East Los Angeles to celebrate the closure of the Exide plant in Vernon. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Environmental activist joined together last week in East Los Angeles to celebrate the closure of the Exide plant in Vernon. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The agreement calls for the immediate, permanent closure of Exide’s plant and for the company to spend millions to clean up the facility and nearby properties polluted by its toxic emissions. In exchange, the company and its executives will avoid criminal prosecution for its admitted decades long illegal handling of hazardous waste.

The mood Saturday was cheerful, food was plentiful and everyone, from the elected officials to the community activists and local residents, was smiling ear to ear on the “historic night.”

“Let’s continue the struggle, but tonight we celebrate,” Rev. Monsignor John Moretta told the crowd, drawing loud applause.

Last Thursday – the day the news broke – the regular bi-weekly meeting of environmental justice advocates East Yard Communities and Communities for a Better Environment to discuss the ongoing struggle with Exide, was replaced with music, hot dogs and dancing.

Modesta Carranza hosted the event in East Los Angeles and called the festivity a “celebration among neighbors,” with neighbors coming from Huntington Park, Maywood, Boyle Heights and beyond.

“In the long struggle for the civil rights of the Chicano/Latino community, it’s hard getting a victory,” so we have to celebrate them when they come, said Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council President Carlos Montes during the event.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns, center, is applauded by Eastside residents during a special dinner at Ressurection Church Sunday night.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns, center, is applauded by Eastside residents during a special dinner at Ressurection Church Sunday night. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Credit for the hard-fought victory belongs to the community, people at both events said.

“Money was against us but we did it with people power,” said 78-year-old Arturo Herrera. “We’ve been fighting for so long,” and now we know “what justice means.”

If you live in a low-income, immigrant community it’s harder to get government to listen to you, said East L.A. resident Victoria Zepeda.

“It takes many hands to make a masa (dough),” said Moretta before naming all the organizations that helped raise awareness of the environmental injustice.

Mark Lopez from East Yard Communities celebrated with his mother and daughter in East L.A. and reflected on how many generations were forced to endure Exide’s toxic emissions before action was finally taken.

“I never thought I would see the day,” echoed his mother Elsa Lopez, whose fight to close the plant goes back decades with the Mothers of East L.A.

Behind all the celebrations and feelings of victory, however, there remains nagging doubt, state regulators are up to the task of forcing Exide to live up to its agreement with federal authorities.

There is also anger that no one will be criminally prosecuted for releasing lead, arsenic and other toxins into the air and groundwater, exposing over 100,000 people to cancer causing levels of toxic chemicals.

It’s hard to forget how long it’s taken elected officials and regulators to act, said many of the people involved in the anti-Exide movement.

“Nobody believed how bad it was,” said Boyle Heights resident Teresa Marquez. They did not believe this could be going on in a state with so many environmental protection laws, she said. But Marquez never believed claims by Exide and state officials that the company was not a danger to the community.

“We knew Exide would lie, but DTSC and AQMD? We wanted to trust them,” she angrily recalls.

Terry Cano was not sure how to feel when she heard Exide was being forced to close because she never thought she would live to see the day.

“My first reaction was shock, I was happy,” said Cano. But “I really got angry and disappointed” when I heard the terms of the agreement, said the Boyle Heights resident.

“They literally got away with murder,” she said in disgust.

Mark Lopez shares the sentiment.  “When crime is committed in our neighborhoods we go to jail, sometimes we’re even deported, so for them to just pay a fine and leave is ridiculous,” said the clearly disappointed Lopez. “Our lives are not a parking ticket. We deserve better.”

California’s Department of Toxic Substance Control, DTSC, was not a party to the negotiations between Exide and federal authorities, but has been charged with making sure Exide’s complies with the terms of the deal.

The agency said the first phase of closure will take between 19 to 22 months and will include demolishing buildings “down to dirt.”

The second phase will involve cleaning beyond the facility and into the neighborhoods.

DTSC had earlier secured $14 million from Exide for the clean up of 216 potentially contaminated properties, although some of that amount still has to be approved by bankruptcy court later this month.

DTSC Director Barbara Lee claims the U.S. Attorney’s agreement will accelerate the payment schedule and ultimately “minimize the cost to the state.”

As a result, “[Exide] has a much greater incentive to work with us,” she said.

According to Lee, DTSC had already started the process to deny Exide’s application for a permanent permit — the company had been allowed to operate with a temporary one for more than three decades — when federal authorities struck their deal.

“[Exide] knew we were going to deny their permit and that they were going to be shut down irrespective of what the USAO was going to do,” Lee said.

Herrera says he was surprised that the U.S. Attorney’s office got involved.

“The [federal government] and local politicians really came through for our community,” he said. “The state never stuck up for us.”

Residents from Boyle Heights to Maywood celebrated the closure of the Exide plant in Vernon.    (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Residents from Boyle Heights to Maywood celebrated the closure of the Exide plant in Vernon. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Many like Herrera are angry DTSC did not act sooner. They are also angry Gov. Jerry Brown last year vetoed Sen. Kevin de Leon’s bill to create stricter oversight of state agencies like DTSC.

“Yes Exide is down, but DTSC is now responsible for the mess they allowed here in our communities,” said Lopez.

“The state of California needs reform and laws with teeth that will stick,” Marquez said.

Leading environmental groups are calling for an overhaul of the state’s regulatory agencies, with some going so far as to demand DTSC be shut down until it can be reorganized.

“I hope it’s legit,” said Rhianna Morales bluntly about the closure. “I hope [Exide] doesn’t come back with something.”

Lee, who has only been in her position for three months and inherited the mess from her predecessors, defends the agency against accusations it has repeatedly failed to take decisive action against Exide. She points out the agency has in recent years collected millions of dollars in fines from Exide, and that’s it’s effort to close the plant was thwarted by the courts.

“I have a lot of hope that Barbara [Lee] will turn the agency around,” says Herrera, but “to us, they are still the same agency.

Elsa Lopez thinks Exide “got off easy” and “should be charged with murder.”

Marquez told EGP, “Somebody has to get fired.”

Montes worries Exide will just move elsewhere and contaminate another community.

“[Exide’s] priority isn’t cleaning up, its making a profit,” he said.

The U.S. Attorney said its deal with Exide would allow the company to remain financially solvent so it can pay to clean up the damage it has caused. If they don’t, they will be criminally prosecuted.

For now, Boyle Heights resident Ethel Lopez, 60, is relieved that she will be able to breath fresh, clean air.

“We are getting rid of a polluter,” said Lopez. “As long as they are out, we should be fine.”

Many residents told EGP they feel they have helped secure a clean, safe environment for future generations.

“I’m very happy that this isn’t going to have to be my daughter’s fight,” Mark Lopez said.

“The next step is to make sure they clean up the site at Exide’s expense not at the cost of the community,” said Huntington Park Mayor Karina Macias. “We need to hold these agencies accountable so this doesn’t happen again.”

“You can watch us going forward, we will clean this up,” promised Lee.

Exide Cierra Permanentemente en Vernon

March 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Exide Technologies cerrará permanentemente su planta de reciclaje de baterías en Vernon en un acuerdo alcanzado con autoridades federales para evitar ser procesado por cargos criminales, según anunció la oficina del fiscal de EE.UU. el miércoles.

“Hemos llegado a un acuerdo con Exide que resultará en el cierre inmediato y permanente de la planta de reciclaje de baterías”, dijo Thom Mrozek, portavoz de la oficina del fiscal federal.

Read this article in English: Feds Strike Deal to Close Exide Permanently 

“Es un acuerdo complicado, pero creemos que esto asegurará que el dinero esté disponible para pagar decenas de millones de dólares en los esfuerzos de limpieza”.

El cierre se produce después de años de la indignación pública sobre numerosas violaciónes de la compañía para las emisiones de sustancias químicas tóxicas y el manejo de residuos peligrosos. Alrededor de 110.000 personas en Vernon, Boyle Heights, Maywood y otras comunidades cercanas estuvieron expuestos a niveles de plomo y arsénico que podrían causar cáncer, según encontraron los reguladores estatales de calidad del aire.

Los residentes de las comunidades cercanas y los funcionarios electos locales solicitaron en repetidas ocasiones que la planta cerrará permanentemente.

Exide localizada en la ciudad de Vernon acordó cerrar permanentemente. (EGP archivo)

Exide localizada en la ciudad de Vernon acordó cerrar permanentemente. (EGP archivo)

“Exide estaba envenenando a nuestra comunidad, tenía que ser cerrada”, dijo el Rev. Monseñor John Moretta de la Iglesia de la Resurrección en Boyle Heights, la zona cero en la lucha para cerrar la planta en Vernon.

El acuerdo contempla que Exide cierre definitivamente la planta, que la empresa admite que produce una gran cantidad de desechos peligrosos, incluyendo plomo, cadmio, arsénico y compuestos orgánicos volátiles.

Según el acuerdo negociado, Exide reconocerá el almacenamiento ilegal y transporte de residuos peligrosos, evitando así la persecución penal a cambio del cierre, la demolición y limpieza de la planta de reciclaje de baterías de 15 acres.

Las operaciones de fundición han sido cerradas en las instalaciones de Vernon desde marzo de 2014, como la compañía trabajó para instalar actualizaciones de equipos para cumplir con las normas de calidad del aire del estado. Durante el cierre, sin embargo, la empresa continúa violando las regulaciones de contaminación del aire y las leyes de almacenamiento de residuos peligrosos y de transporte.

Exide está en el Capítulo 11 de bancarrota y de acuerdo con las autoridades federales el acuerdo permitirá a la compañía permanecer financieramente solvente para que pueda cumplir con un acuerdo alcanzado el año pasado con los reguladores estatales de que la empresa pondría a un lado $38.6 millones para el cierre y la limpieza de la instalación y colocaría $9 millones en un fondo fiduciario para limpiar suelos contaminados con plomo de las viviendas vecinas en Boyle Heights y Maywood.

En ese momento, Exide llamó al “acuerdo” un “paso crucial hacia delante” en su búsqueda para volver a abrir su planta, cerrada desde marzo de 2014, mientras la compañía trabajaba para mejorar los controles de contaminación y cumplir con otros requisitos del Departamento de Control de Sustancias Tóxicas (DTSC).

Esos pagos se expedirán bajo el acuerdo con funcionarios federales.

“Al cerrar permanentemente las instalaciones de Exide en Vernon es lo mejor, y una espera de largo tiempo para las comunidades perjudicadas por su contaminación peligrosa por décadas”, dijo el Presidente Pro Tempore del Senado Kevin de León (D-Los Ángeles).

“Por mucho tiempo, los niños y ancianos quedaron vulnerables a la fuga de residuos peligrosos de la planta, mientras que la agencia estatal responsable de su protección falló en hacer su trabajo”, dijo, refiriéndose a los reguladores estatales que permiten a la compañía operar con un permiso temporal durante décadas.

DTSC, la agencia estatal encargada del proceso de permisos, ha sido criticada repetidamente por su fracaso para completar el proceso de permisos o de cerrar la planta a raíz de sus continuas violaciónes que ponían en peligro la salud pública.

Un proyecto de ley firmado por el gobernador el año pasado requería que la empresa obtuviera un permiso permanente a finales de este año o sería cerrada.

DTSC ha estado revisando la solicitud de permiso de Exide, y dijo hoy jueves que “iniciaron el proceso para negar la solicitud de permiso de la compañía” el mes pasado.

El Senador Ricardo Lara de Bell Gardens dijo que las noticias del cierre definitivo de Exide “traerían gran alivio a sus constituyentes, quienes durante décadas han estado expuestos a niveles tóxicos de plomo y emisiones de arsénico por parte de sus instalaciones en Vernon”.

La Congresista Lucille Roybal-Allard llama el cierre permanente una “iconica victoria de salud pública para el Distrito 40”.

Exide emitió un comunicado diciendo que la compañía “inmediatamente cerraría permanentemente su planta de reciclaje de baterías de plomo-ácido en Vernon”, en virtud de los términos del acuerdo de “no persecución” alcanzados con el abogado del fiscal federal que “resuelve investigación criminal de la oficina del fiscal de EE.UU. en Exide”.

La empresa solicitará que la corte de Bancarrota apruebe los acuerdos en el marco de su plan de reorganización en una audiencia programada para el 27 de marzo.

La aprobación debe permitir a la empresa cumplir con sus compromisos financieros, dijo Robert M. Caruso, Presidente y Consejero Delegado de Exide Technologies. Caruso dijo que la empresa reconoce el impacto que el cierre tendrá en los 130 empleados de la planta, y agradeció a la Unión de Trabajadores Unidos del Acero por su “compromiso y dedicación”, sin detallar si hay algo que se puede hacer para ayudar a los trabajadores desplazados.

Se han presentado demandas contra varios ejecutivos de la compañía y el gerente de la planta de reciclaje de Exide por residentes en la zona que alegan que ellos y sus hijos fueron expuestos al plomo, arsénico y otros contaminantes.

Una demanda presentada en la Corte Superior de Los Ángeles en enero también alegó homicidio culposo. Fue presentado por los familiares de residentes que murieron entre junio de 1998 y mayo de 2013. Los demandantes atribuyeron las muertes a las toxinas de la planta que afectó al agua, suelo y aire.

Cuando estaba operando, la planta reciclaba cerca de 25.000 baterías diarias. Era una de las únicas dos plantas de reciclaje de baterías de plomo-ácido al oeste de las Montañas Rocosas.

 

DTSC Accused of ‘Environmental Racism’

February 19, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Vernon last week to call for the closure of Exide Techonologoes, an embattled lead-acid battery recycler in the city.

“Stand by our side, shut down Exide,” chanted residents and environmental activists from Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park.

The protest was in response to recent hazardous waste violations issued against Exide by the Department of Toxic Substance Control. The citations included unauthorized tanks filled with contaminated sludge and failure to “sufficiently protect against spills.”

Residents from Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington marched down Vernon streets protesting Exide.   (East Yard Communities )

Residents from Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington marched down Vernon streets protesting Exide. (East Yard Communities )

For the protesters, the problems go beyond Exide. They accused DTSC of engaging in flagrant environmental racism, saying the regulatory agency has not shut down Exide, despite its long history of air quality violations and arsenic emissions, because the affected communities are home to working-class Latinos.

“DTSC’s actions show that it has placed Exide’s and the State’s financial interests above the Latino community’s human right to breath clean air and live in safe communities,” said Milton Hernandez-Nimatuj, a youth organizer with CBE, Communities for a Better Environment.

The participants pointed to the nearly identical Exide facility that was shut down in the white-affluent city of Frisco, Texas as proof of their claim.

The group accused DTSC of imposing lighter fines and entering into settlement agreements instead of shutting down the plant that up until recently had been operating on a temporary permit.

But DTSC continues to say the agency is fully aware of the community’s concerns and they are holding Exide accountable.

“We are carefully and thoroughly evaluating Exide’s compliance record, including these most recent violations, as part of our decision on their permit application. We will make a decision before the end of the year, and in the meantime, wherever we see non-compliance, we will issue violations,” DTSC Spokesman Sandy Nax said in a statement to EGP.

The Vernon plant has been closed since March 2014 to make equipment improvements to meet South Coast Air Quality Management District air quality standards. DTSC must decide whether to issue a permit by the end of the year or Exide would face closure.

Gladys Limon, staff attorney at CBE, said Exide does not deserve that permit.

“DTSC has a duty to initiate a permit denial process based on Exide’s historical and ongoing violations,” she said at Monday’s rally. “It is reckless and creates dangerous precedent to allow such a facility…to continue to operate.”

DTSC countered that the permit process has been transparent and open to the public and a public comment portion will be considered before the agency’s final decision.

Representatives of L.A. County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and the County’s Department of Community and Senior Services also took part in the rally and the supervisor pledged the County’s support to “protect the health and safety of communities threatened by pollution from the Vernon plant.” She pledged assistance to workers who could be displaced if Exide is closed permanently.

According to Solis, the county will be leading three special orientations for Exide dislocated workers in Huntington Park, Santa Fe Springs and East Los Angeles.

Students from Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park protested against Exide on the streets of Vernon. (East Yard Communities )

Students from Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park protested against Exide on the streets of Vernon. (East Yard Communities )

On Feb. 10, she told her fellow supervisors that county health officials should make department staff available to follow up on the lead blood testing program, both to discuss the results of tests already taken and to encourage more people to get tested by the end-of-the –month deadline.

“No community should receive less of what they are entitled to. Let’s level the playing field,” Solis said during the board meeting.

Exide, however, continues to say the company is committed to working with regulators to meet permit requirements and health and safety standards, and to get their approximately 135 employees back to work.

“We recognize the community’s concerns and are committed to engaging openly and transparent with local residents,” said Tom Strang, vice president for Exide’s Evironment and Safety, in a statement.

Exide officials say the company has invested $35 million in environmental, health and safety measures since 2010.

Monsignor John Moretta of Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights said re-training Exide employees is key.

“Surely our political leadership agrees that the safety and health of 100,000 people is more important than 100 jobs which pose grave danger to workers,” he said at the Vernon rally.

AQMD previously found that 110,000 people in the area were exposed to cancer-causing chemical emissions from Exide.

Vernon Councilmember-elect Melissa Ybarra told EGP that she drives by Exide everyday on her way to work but she has yet to take a stance on the controversial topic.

However, like her father before her, she too is concerned about the plant.

“My concern is making sure the employees are healthy,” said Ybarra, who was elected Tuesday to fill out her late father’s term.

Mark Lopez, director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, is not satisfied by the company’s efforts to remediate the health concerns. He said his mother and grandmother fought against environmentl justice in the 1990s, and things haven’t change.

“I’m standing here, fighting to shut down Exide permanently, so my toddler daughters won’t have to fight Exide to protect their children’s health in the future.”

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