Exide Technologies will begin testing dust and soil in the neighborhoods surrounding its Vernon battery plant today to help determine whether the battery recycling plant is posing a health risk to the community.
Last spring State officials tried to shut down the plant after an analysis by the South Coast Air Quality Management District showed arsenic emissions were posing an increased cancer risk to people in Boyle Heights, Maywood, Huntington Park and other surrounding areas.
Exide appealed the decision in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming much of its emission issues had already been addressed. A judge allowed operations to resume pending a full hearing this fall.
Exide will be collecting surface soil and dust samples, under supervision from DTSC, on properties adjacent to the plant and elsewhere in the community. If lead is found, officials say Exdide will be ordered to clean it up immediately.
“We want to bring assurance to the community that if contaminants from the facility are in their yard, Exide will clean them up,” said Brian Johnson, Deputy Director of DTSC’s Hazardous Waste Management Program in released statement.
But some residents in nearby areas such as Boyle Heights are concerned that regulators aren’t doing enough.
Teresa Marquez, 65, has started a petition aimed at closing down the plant until a clean up is done. She says her concern is how community members are paying the price for the exposure to dangerous chemicals.
Marquez says, “The real work is closing them down, or putting in the place the right equipment and technology to stop poisoning our communities.”
Depending on the dust and soil findings, officials may also test two nearby schools, San Antonio Elementary in Huntington Park and Salazar Park Head Start in East L.A. for contamination.
Children are more vulnerable to lead than adults. Exposure can cause permanent brain damage, lower IQ’s, learning disabilities, stunted growth and seizures.
The Vernon plant has been in operation since 1922, and currently melts down 40,000 batteries a day.
This week’s dust sampling will be followed with soil sampling on Oct. 1. The company has to submit findings to DTSC by Nov.15.
The lead issues are separate from the reported arsenic emissions found by the AQMD.
Plans remain for a fall hearing on a temporary closure, but state toxic department officials say Exide has been cooperating to bring its facility into compliance.