Exide Technologies (file photo)
Demonstrators rallied recently to demand tougher statewide action on plants like the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon, where recent samples showed elevated levels of lead in the yards of 39 nearby homes. The group of community members gathered outside of Exide’s plant at 2700 S. Indiana St. in Vernon, calling for statewide reform of California’s environmental regulatory agencies.
“Unfortunately, Exide is not the only culprit in this statewide issue,” said Strela Cervas of the California Environmental Justice Alliance.
“There are clearly deep flaws in state agencies that regulate toxic polluters, and we are calling on elected officials to tackle these dangerous inadequacies.” An Exide spokeswoman said the company did not want to comment on the rally.
Exide officials previously said they have agreed to invest more than $5 million in the plant over the next two years, bringing its total investment to more than $20 million since 2010. Also, they said they are continuing to work with local and state regulators for a long-term operational plan. State Sen. Ricardo Lara, who sent a representative to the rally, said in a statement residents from surrounding communities have suffered for too long.
“It’s time to hold Exide accountable for the damage they have done,” Lara said.
Earlier this month, the South Coast Air Quality Management District ruled to deny Exide more time to install the upgraded “negative pressure” furnaces. In response, Exide officials said they were working to contract with other companies to continue recycling operations.
“Previously completed upgrades to the facility have already achieved a plant-wide 95 percent reduction of arsenic emissions, which has been maintained since 2013,” according to the company.
The Exide plant, however, has continued to be targeted by health officials and air-quality regulators. Recent testing found elevated levels of lead in the yards of 39 homes near the plant. The plant was forced to temporarily close last year due to arsenic emissions, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District sued the company in January, alleging numerous air quality violations.
The battery recycling plant has been operating under a temporary permit from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control for the past 32 years and is the only facility left in the state that has not been fully permitted, DTSC officials said last year. Exide is one of only two lead-acid battery recycling plants west of the Rockies. In operation since 1922, the plant recycles 23,000 to 41,000 batteries daily. The plant has been closed in recent weeks as upgrades were made to the facility. Exide officials said the construction work was likely responsible for recent reports of elevated lead levels in plant emissions.
The county Department of Public Health is offering confidential blood- lead screenings through the end of September. Residents can call (844) 888-2290 to get more information about the screenings or to have lab requisition forms sent to their homes.