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Boyle Heights residents and those in nearby communities can literally breathe easier today after a lead-battery recycling plant in Vernon was shut down for releasing dangerous contaminants into the soil and air.

The California Department of Toxic Substance Control ordered Exide Technologies to immediately suspend operations Wednesday because of the health risks associated with continuous hazardous metals and other toxic substances leaking from wastewater pipes into the environment.

Last month, the South Coast Air Quality Management District ordered Exide to create a “risk reduction plan” after a report showed its production released high levels of arsenic emissions, posing cancer risks for 110,000 residents in Boyle Heights, Maywood, Huntington Park, Commerce, Vernon and some areas of East L.A.

State regulators say violations found in the recent reports submitted by the facility plus those from the SCAQMD report deem their operations as unsafe.

“This new information provides clear evidence that this suspension is necessary,” said Brian Johnson, who heads DTSC’s Hazardous Waste Management Program

Los Angeles City Councilmember, Jose Huizar, whose 14th district includes Boyle Heights, says he applauds the DTSC’s decision.

“First and foremost, our concern should be with the residents and workers put at risk due to harmful emissions. Boyle Heights, East L.A. and our Southeast communities already bear more than their fair share of harmful emissions and contaminants, and greater scrutiny is needed,” said Huizar.

Huizar went on to say he is concerned that Exide was allowed to operate so long with only an interim permit, which the company has been operating on for 32 years.

The consumer advocacy group, Consumer Watchdog said the DTSC “did the right thing” by taking action against the recycling giant, but also criticized the California Environmental Protection Agency’s department for not acting sooner.

The group “faulted the DTSC for serious lapses in its regulation of the facility over two decades,” on its website.

According to a CW article, the DTSC was aware of extensive groundwater, air and soil pollution at Exide for years and failed “to protect Californians from toxic pollutants.”

Huizar has asked the L.A. City Attorney and the Chief Legislative Analyst to create a plan of action for the city to address Exide’s arsenic air violations which required the company to notify residents of Boyle Heights and surrounding communities of the potential harm.

The L. A. City Council, Energy & Environment Committee, headed by Huizar, is considering legal action against the plant.

Gus Ugalde

Gus Ugalde is a print journalist and Boyle Heights native. He is a graduate of both Salesian High School and East Los Angeles College. With writing as his passion, he has had over 500 stories published...

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