Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Troubled battery plant in Vernon cuts production after air monitor finds too much lead in emissions

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Regulators have ordered the troubled Exide battery recycling facility in Vernon to cut production after an air monitor near the site found unusually high levels of lead in emissions coming from the plant.

 The South Coast Air Quality Management District announced the development on its website.

The air monitor found that emissions from the plant at 2700 S. Indiana St. exceeded the 30-day standard for lead during the period ending Sept. 9. 

As a consequence, Exide has cut production by 15 percent. The company must now monitor lead emissions on a daily, not monthly, basis.

The AQMD is developing a rule specifically to control lead and other toxic emissions from large battery recycling facilities. Only two plants west of the Mississippi recycle batteries. The South Coast AQMD regulates both.

Air regulators have focused on controlling arsenic emissions from the Exide plant in recent months. A health risk assessment released in the spring found a sharply elevated cancer risk for people living and working in East Los Angeles, Huntington Park, Maywood and other nearby communities.

Neighbors of the plant have demanded that public officials close Exide’s doors. The state Department of Toxic Substances Control issued a closure order for Exide back in spring, but a judge has allowed the plant to keep operating while the company fights the order. Toxics regulators say they’re negotiating with Exide to help the plant stay open.

Public opposition to Exide has prompted Supervisor Gloria Molina to call for tighter controls for emissions and other toxic substances. L.A. County’s Department of Public Health and the DTSC have announced a lead screening program, in which officials will sample blood taken from people who work and live near the plant.

Community groups are critical of the DTSC. That agency has not issued Exide a comprehensive operating permit over a period stretching back to the 1980s -- a requirement of state and federal law. 

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