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Photo by Art Torres.

Photo by Art Torres.

This week Exide Technologies issued temporary layoff notices to more than 100 employees at its battery recycling facility in Vernon. Twenty salaried workers and 104 hourly employees, all members of the United Steel Workers Union, were notified.

The action comes following the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) Board’s decision that denied Exide’s request for an extension to comply with new regulations on arsenic emissions.

“Because our Vernon facility is not currently operating and not able to meet the new operational standard without the necessary time to purchase, install and test the required equipment, we had no choice but to make this very difficult decision to temporarily lay off most of our workers,” said Robert M. Caruso, Chief Executive Officer of Exide Technologies.

The battery recycler has claimed it needs more time to install equipment in order to comply with new “negative pressure” operational standards. The plant has been shut down since March 14.

Last year an air quality study found arsenic emissions from the plant posed an elevated cancer risk to more than 100,000 people living in the surrounding area.

Community members have been lobbying regulators to take action against Exide since the findings were published.

In addition to its arsenic emissions, the plant has been cited for exceeding permissible levels of lead.

In March, state officials issued health warnings after soil sampling in Boyle Heights and Maywood revealed that every home of the 39 tested near Exide Technologies had lead contamination in the soil””exceeding California’s screening levels of 80 parts per million.

Under a Risk Reduction Plan already approved by the AQMD, Exide has agreed to invest more than $5 million over the next two years to make operational improvements to the facility, reduce emissions, and comply with new regulatory standards.

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