Exide denied more time to reduce arsenic pollution

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A hearing board for the South Coast Air Quality Management District denied a request on Tuesday to allow the battery recycling company Exide Technologies more time to install pollution control devices at its facility in Vernon.

RELATED: Exide Technologies FAQ: Everything you need to know about recycling lead batteries in LA 

In January, AQMD adopted a regulation that would require Exide to achieve negative pressure at its facilities by April 10. Negative pressure would suck in and filter all emissions from two of the company's furnaces, with the intention of limiting emissions of arsenic and other toxins.

The company said that it intends to comply with the regulations but that the timeframe is too stringent. It both filed a lawsuit against AQMD and requested relief from the agency with regards to the regulation. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled against Exide on Monday, and an AQMD hearing board denied its request on Tuesday. 

In a written statement, Exide officials said they are reviewing the hearing board's decision and are considering the next steps. 

“Exide continues to work with AQMD, and other local and state regulators on a long term operational plan for its Vernon recycling plant," the statement said. "Pursuant to its risk reduction plan which was recently approved by the AQMD, the Company has committed to invest more than $5 million over the next two years to upgrade the Vernon facility, bringing its total environmental and public health investments to more than $20 million since 2010.  Previously completed upgrades to the facility have already achieved a plant-wide 95% reduction of arsenic emissions, which has been maintained since April 2013. “

Officials for the regulatory agency said the hearing board's decision was an important step in regulating the facility.

“It was a good day for pollution control today. It was … a further step in getting Exide to clean up its operation,” said Kurt Wiese, general counsel for AQMD. 

Exide has been a source of controversy in recent years over concerns of elevated arsenic and lead emissions. Some studies found sharply elevated cancer risks for people working and living in areas around the plant. 

RELATED: Exide neighbors can now get blood tests for lead 

Operations at the plant have been stopped for maintenance since mid-March. Wiese said that the hearing board's decision essentially means the company won't be able to begin again without installing the required pollution controls.

"Before they can start up, they'll need to be able to comply with that requirement in the AQMD regulations," Wiese said. "Otherwise, they'll be subject to daily penalties and possible criminal sanctions."

This story has been updated.

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