Communities Near Exide Put DTSC on Notice

June 25, 2015 by · Leave a 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.”

Se Extiende el Examen de Sangre para Residentes Alrededor de la Planta Exide

February 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Desde que Reina Rodríguez escuchó que en el Parque Salazar del Este de Los Ángeles se encontraron niveles elevados de plomo en el suelo, dice que en raras ocasiones lleva a su hijo de 4 años a jugar ahí. Pese a vivir a pocas cuadras de distancia, la joven madre dice que nunca supo que ella y su familia eran elegibles para los análisis de sangre gratuitos del plomo, pagadas por Exide Technologies en Vernon y administrados por los funcionarios de salud del condado de Los Ángeles.

El programa de prueba de sangre, que se ofreció a los residentes del este y sureste del área de Los Ángeles que viven cerca de la planta de reciclaje de baterías Exide en Vernon, llegará a finales de febrero, 11 meses después que inició en abril de 2014.

Read this article in English: Lead Blood Testing Extended for Residents Near Exide

Reguladores de la contaminación del aire y químicos tóxicos encontraron que Exide expuso hasta 110.000 personas en la región a niveles insalubres, potencialmente cancerosos y necrológicamente dañinos de plomo y arsénico.

De acuerdo a funcionarios de la salud, solamente 500 de las aproximadamente 30.000 personas elegibles se han hecho el examen, aunque hubo 2.000 peticiones en papel.

Hasta el momento ninguno de los resultados ha necesitado intervención médica, de acuerdo a funcionarios de la salud pública, quienes todavía continúan analizando los últimos examenes administrados. Los resultados serán enviados directamente a los residentes.

La administración y el valor del examen han sido cuestionados por un número de personas preocupadas por la exposición de la comunidad a las emisiones de sustancias químicas tóxicas de la planta Exide.

Algunas personas acusaron al condado de no proveer la difusión necesaria al público y de no hacer las pruebas más accesibles.

Un niño corre por el parque Salazar, uno de los sitios cercanas a Exide examinadas para el plomo y arsénico. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

Un niño corre por el parque Salazar, uno de los sitios cercanas a Exide examinadas para el plomo y arsénico. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

La residente de Boyle Heights Doelorez Mejía quien sigue el tema Exide de cerca le dijo a EGP que ella no confía en el programa de revisión. “Todos sabemos que el plomo está en nuestras comunidades, está en nuestro suelo” y añadió que los resultados de la prueba de sangre sólo distraerían los esfuerzos de la comunidad para demostrar los problemas de salud que Exide ha causado en los residentes.

Exide acordó pagar por los exámenes confidenciales administrados por el condado como parte de su esfuerzo para remediar las consecuencias de los resultados de los reguladores estatales y reacción de activistas de la comunidad y funcionarios electos, muchos de los que quieren que la planta cierre de forma permanente.

Nestor Valencia, alcalde de la ciudad vecina Bell, dice que los exámenes de sangre son una “maniobra política” y una “farsa” que “sólo beneficiaría a ellos [Exide] para decir, “ven nadie tiene plomo en su cuerpo’”.

EGP habló con varios residentes quienes dijeron que no creen que la prueba de sangre es la forma adecuada para determinar la exposición crónica a sustancias químicas tóxicas como el plomo.

Según Joseph R. Landolfo Jr., Profesor Asociado de Microbiología Molecular, Inmunología y Patología en la Escuela de Medicina Keck en  USC,  el plomo sólo permanece en la sangre durante 30 días antes de que desaparezca.

Aunque en realidad, la prueba de sangre es la forma estándar para determinar la exposición al plomo que se queda en los huesos de una persona por hasta 20 años, dijo Landolfo. En los adultos, el 90 por ciento de plomo se encuentra en los huesos, le dijo a EGP. Debido a esto, las mujeres embarazadas y las que atraviesan por la menopausia son propensas a reabsorber el plomo, explicó.

“Todas [las pruebas] dirían es que el plomo está en su sangre”, dijo Landolfo.

Una vez que se haya encontrado el plomo, el condado tendría que determinar la exposición al ver los alrededores de los individuos y “asumir que todo es una contribución en proporción a cuanto sacan”, añadió.

Por eso Teresa Márquez de Boyle Heights no se hizo la prueba y le dijo a EGP que “no vale la pena”, sobre todo porque cualquier supuesta exposición de Exide puede haber desaparecido desde que la planta cerró en marzo de 2014.

“Es un poco demasiado tarde”, dijo. “¿Por qué no les hacen pruebas en las uñas que demuestren la contaminación del arsénico por un periodo de años?”

Márquez cree que el condado y Exide no quieren pagar por un mayor costo de las pruebas de arsénico, lo que en última instancia, haría un mejor trabajo de mostrar qué daño se ha hecho.

Sin embargo, Landolfo, que es miembro del Centro Comprensivo de Cáncer Norris en USC y experto en arsénico, le dijo a EGP que arsénico sólo vive en la sangre durante 10 horas.

Agregó, sin embargo, que las concentraciones de exposición crónica se podían encontrar en las uñas y el cabello. Un indicio, dijo, podría ser las bandas blancas en las uñas.

Exide no respondió a la petición de EGP para hacer comentarios sobre el tema antes del cierre de esta edición.

Los funcionarios del condado dijeron a EGP que no hay planes para llevar a cabo las pruebas de arsénico. Añaden que esa prueba sólo sería apropiada para la intoxicación aguda por arsénico –la exposición no crónica a largo plazo.

Se centraron en el plomo porque fueron esos los niveles elevados que se encontraron en la zona, no arsénico.

Para la mayoría de los residentes, el valor de las pruebas no es lo que les impidió hacerse la revisión. Simplemente no sabían sobre el programa gratuito de pruebas de sangre.

La residente de toda la vida del Este de Los Ángeles, Alice Gallardo, 80, dijo que la información sobre la prueba no estuvo lo suficientemente disponible para la comunidad.

“Nadie vino con nosotros”, dijo.

Agregó que el proceso hubiera sido mas fácil si el condado hubiera ido a los centros locales de personas mayores y parques para informar al público.

“Si aun no sabías sobre Exide, no ibas a saber sobre las pruebas”, agregó Mejia.

“¿Cómo se supone que las personas deberían saber?”

Funcionarios de salud pública defendieron su alcance.

En un correo electrónico, un portavoz del departamento de la división de salud ambiental de la salud pública le dijo a EGP que el condado envió por correo folletos con instrucciones a los 30.000 residentes de la zona impactada sobre cómo hacerse la prueba en abril de 2014 y de nuevo hace un par de meses.

También tuvieron reuniones en Commerce y Maywood en abril de 2014, y dieron actualizaciones de progreso en un par de reuniones comunitarias en la Iglesia de la Resurrección.

Los funcionarios del condado le dijeron a EGP que enfermeras de salud pública llevaron a cabo campañas de puerta en puerta en los barrios de los alrededores de Exide y fueron a las escuelas del área.

Marena Vallejo de Boyle Heights dijo que encontró la información “confusa” acerca de las pruebas y donde tomarlas.

Lucía Sandoval estaba en el Parque Salazar a principios de esta semana con su nieto. El parque está situado a una milla de la planta Exide en Vernon.

Le dijo a EGP, “Si yo no sabía nada de esto y no me hice la prueba”, ¿cómo iba a saber él?

Los reguladores estatales ordenaron a Exide que pagara por la remoción de suelo contaminado en el Parque Salazar y estableciera un fondo de $9 millones para la limpieza de otros sitios contaminados.

Márquez insiste en que el programa de pruebas se podría haber manejado mejor. Si el condado realmente quería informar al público, hubieran llevado a cabo una feria de salud y ofrecer pruebas en un fin de semana para que fuera más fácil para la comunidad de clase trabajadora, dijo.

“Ellos [el condado] no hicieron lo suficiente porque no quieren hacer más por nuestra comunidad”, dijo el alcalde Valencia. “Creo que es porque sabían que era una pérdida de tiempo”.


Twitter @nancyreporting

Exide Violates Hazardous Waste Laws

January 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A recent inspection led the Department of Toxic Substance Control Wednesday to issue eight new violations to embattled Exide Technologies related to their handling of hazardous waste.

The most serious violation observed at the Vernon facility by DTSC and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspectors was unauthorized tanks filled with contaminated sludge. The inspectors also found that the plant failed to “sufficiently protect against spills” in an area where battery acid is stored.

Other alleged violations include: improperly labeling and not closing containers with hazardous waste, a lack of adequate secondary containment and placing hazardous waste with liquids in a building without a functioning leak detention.

The two-day inspections took place Jan. 20 and Jan 21 as part of the company’s application for a permanent hazardous waste permit.

Newly appointed DTSC Director Barbara A. Lee told EGP the results from the recent inspections will be taken into consideration when she makes a decision on Exide’s permit. Exide must receive a permanent permit by Dec. 31, as required by Senate Bill 712, or face closure.

“I felt it was important we confirm [Exide’s] applications accurately reflects the present conditions of the site,” she said of the inspection.

This is the first set of violations issued since Lee was appointed to her position in December.

Exide must address all violations within 10 days or face penalties and additional enforcement actions.

“These violations represent our commitment to the community that we will keep a close watch on Exide and ensure that the facility is in compliance with all pertinent laws,” said DTSC Deputy Director Elise Rothschild.

Exide officials said the company will continue to work with state regulators.

“The company is already taking action pursuant to the notice and will continue to work with the DTSC so that all applicable standards and protocols are met. We intend to operate a premier recycling facility,” said Tom Strang, Exide’s Vice-President of Environment Health and Safety.

Smelting operations have been shut down at the Vernon facility since March 2014 as the company works to install equipment upgrades to comply with state air quality standards.

The plant located at 2700 S. Indiana St. is one of the only two lead-acid battery-recycling plants west of the Rockies. The facility has been a target by state regulators after years of arsenic emissions and numerous air quality violations.

Residentes de Boyle Heights No Confian en Exide

July 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Para reabrir la planta de baterías de reciclaje de plomo en Vernon se tendrá que cumplir con dos órdenes de mitigación que requieren las instalaciones para mejorar los controles de contaminación del aire o de lo contrario corre el riesgo de ser cerrada permanentemente.

En una reunión en Boyle Heights el lunes, residentes de la comunidad y sus alrededores dijeron que no están contentos con un acuerdo que permitirá a Exide Technologies otra oportunidad para permanecer abierta, pese a años de violaciones de emisiones tóxicas.

Read this article in English: Residents Don’t Trust Exide to Live Up to Deal

“Estoy decepcionado de que fueron capaces de llegar a un acuerdo, pero no me sorprende”, dijo la activista de la coalición eastside Doelorez Mejía, quien dijo que la decisión de la Junta de Audiencias casi independiente del Distrito de Administración de Calidad del Aire de la Costa Sur (SCAQMD) fue el resultado de una “declaración de culpabilidad”.

Según el acuerdo, Exide Technologies hará mejoras “sustanciales” en su planta de fundición de plomo con sede en Vernon. También será necesario realizar y superar las pruebas de emisiones completas antes de que pueda reanudar sus operaciones.

Como parte del acuerdo, Exide ha accedido a abandonar su demanda contra las nuevas reglas de la Junta de Calidad aérea que fijan normas de emisión más estrictas. SCAQMD, sin embargo, se ha reservado el derecho de continuar con su demanda solicitando $40 millones en multas de Exide relacionada con numerosas violaciones de la contaminación del aire estándar, incluidas las emisiones tóxicas ilegales de plomo y arsénico.

“Estos pedidos pondrán en orden medidas adicionales para proteger la salud pública durante la mejora de las instalaciones, así como las operaciones diarias—si la planta nunca se vuelve a abrir”, dijo Barry Wallerstein, funcionario ejecutivo de SCAQMD, sobre la decisión de la Junta de Audiencias.

Residentes de Boyle Heights discutieron el nuevo desarrollo de la compañía Exide el Lunes. (EGP foto por Nancy Martinez)

Residentes de Boyle Heights discutieron el nuevo desarrollo de la compañía Exide el Lunes. (EGP foto por Nancy Martinez)

La compañía de reciclaje de baterías se vio obligada a suspender las operaciones en marzo con el fin de instalar equipos actualizados para cumplir con la nueva norma de la agencia. Si la planta cumple con todos los requisitos podría reabrir tan pronto como a finales de este año o principios del próximo año, según SCAQMD.

Esa posibilidad no le agradó a la Vice-Alcaldesa de Huntington Park Karina Macias.

“La comunidad ha dado muchas oportunidades [a Exide] para cumplir plenamente”, dijo. No tiene sentido “que tengan otra oportunidad”.

“Estas agencias gubernamentales no se supone que deben negociar, se supone que deben proteger a la comunidad”, hizo eco la residente de Boyle Heights, Teresa Márquez.

Exide ha estado bajo escrutinio extremo por las agencias estatales, funcionarios electos y grupos comunitarios que luchan por la compañía en múltiples frentes, algunos con la esperanza de forzar un cierre definitivo de la empresa.

Una evaluación de riesgo para la salud en el 2013 encontró que Exide estaba creando un riesgo inaceptable para la salud a los residentes cercanos en Vernon, Maywood, Huntington Park, Commerce, Boyle Heights y el Este de Los Ángeles. Niveles más altos de lo normal de plomo fueron encontrados recientemente en las muestras de suelo tomadas de los patios de casas y parques cerca de la planta.

Exide Technologies ha afirmado continuamente que sus emisiones de arsénico se han reducido significativamente. Bajo las nuevas órdenes de reducción, se requerirá que la planta lleve a cabo una nueva evaluación de los riesgos de salud, cuando se cumplan todas las mejoras.

Exide también pagará por un consultor ambiental que supervisará que la planta este controlando el plomo y otros contaminantes tóxicos del aire. El consultor proporcionará informes de estado semanales a la Junta de Audiencias, Exide y SCAQMD, quienes lo pondrán a disposición del público en su sitio web.

De acuerdo con Exide, este es el primer paso para que la instalación vuelva a plena producción.

“Exide se ha comprometido a cumplir las nuevas normas de calidad del aire. Completando este plan [de mejora] destacará el desempeño ambiental de nuestras instalaciones de Vernon y nos permitirá reanudar nuestro papel como parte de la economía verde de California”, dijo Thomas Strang, vicepresidente de Medio Ambiente Salud y Seguridad de Exide.

El Reverendo John Moretta, de la Iglesia de la Resurrección en Boyle Heights le dijo a EGP que la compañía de reciclaje debería haber hecho estas mejoras hace años.

“Durante años nos dijeron que no podían hacer las mejoras y ahora, de repente, lo están haciendo ya que ven que hay una posibilidad de un cierre”.

El lunes durante la reunión semanal comunitaria en la Iglesia de la Resurreción, muchos residentes de Boyle Heights expresaron sus sentimientos de decepción y el sentimiento de derrota por la decisión de AQMD de no cerrar definitivamente la planta.

“A menos que ustedes utilicen un martillo para cerrarla, son sólo palabras”, dijo Frank Villalobos de Barrio Planners.

“¿Cuántas oportunidades y esperanza [AQMD] le ha dado a Exide?”, preguntó Miguel Alfaro. “¿Dónde estamos? Ellos no nos dan esperanza”.

Sin embargo, para algunos residentes, no todo esta perdido. El Departamento de Control de Sustancias Tóxicas y (DTSC) y la Agencia de Protección Ambiental (EPA) mantienen la fe de Exide.

El mes pasado DTSC no aprobó la solicitud de permiso de operación de Exide. Exide recicla ocho millones de baterías de plomo por año y ha operado con un permiso temporal por los últimos 32 años, un punto que ha enfurecido a la comunidad.

“Ninguna comunidad debe sufrir todos estos años después de violación tras violación, tras violación” dijo Moretta. “Ellos deberían haber sido clausurados hace años. Estamos pagando por ello ahora con la salud de las personas”.

Una reciente legislación estatal promovida por el Senador Ricardo Lara, que representa a las comunidades cerca de Exide, ya no permitirá que la planta siga funcionando con un permiso provisional y se cerrará si no cumple con todos los permisos para el año 2015.

La desconfianza en la comunidad es evidente, y muchos, como Márquez, sienten que la empresa no ha asumido la responsabilidad por la eliminación de las emisiones tóxicas de los hogares y de los suelos.

“Esta compañía no ha hecho otra cosa que huir” de la responsabilidad, dijo en referencia a la compañía de la declaración de quiebra, lo que ella dice es una forma de evitar realmente el pago de la comunidad por el daño que han hecho.

“Queremos ver a dónde irán los $40 millones [de demandas] y si van a ir realmente a la comunidad”, dijo Moretta.

Mientras tanto, el residente de Boyle Heights espera que la EPA lance su propia investigación.

El mes pasado, la EPA anunció que Exide violó los límites federales de emisión de plomo en al menos 30 ocasiones en el último año.

La agencia previamente reconoció que la “cantidad ilegal de plomo en el aire puso la salud y el bienestar de los residentes cercanos a los riesgos”.

“Por primera vez sentimos que teníamos la oportunidad de cerrar Exide … por fin alguien dijo lo que queremos oír”, dijo la residente de Boyle Heights Aurora Bañuelos.

Exide ha dicho que planean gastar más de $5 millones en mejoras durante los próximos dos años en las instalaciones de la calle Indiana, para un total de $20 millones desde el 2010.

Mejía dice que quiere ver a una total y una completa limpieza de la comunidad antes de que se haga cualquier acuerdo adicional y espera que al menos una de las otras agencias involucradas en última instancia, cierren la planta.

“El impulso está de nuestro lado”, dijo Moretta.

“Sólo que no quiero poner todos mis huevos en una sola canasta”, advirtió Mejía.


Twitter @nancyreporting

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