Photo by Art Torres
Photo by Art Torres
Photo by Art Torres

Air pollution regulators filed a petition Friday to shut down Exide Technologies, the Vernon battery recycling plant found to be releasing dangerous contaminants into the environment, until it improves its air pollution control systems.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) asked an independent administrative law panel to shutter all lead smelting operations, citing its history of “operational problems” and “troubled compliance.”

“These problems have resulted in excess emissions of lead and arsenic ”“ two highly toxic metals ”“ that have imposed a significant health risk to people living or working in the surrounding area,”  said Barry Wallerstein, SCAQMD’s executive officer in a news release.

In March, Exide assessments showed a high cancer risk affecting more than 110,000 residents in Boyle Heights, Vernon, Maywood, Huntington Park, Commerce and some areas of East L.A.

If the petition is granted, it would be the second closure for the company. In April, the Department of Toxic Substances Control ordered Exide to suspend operations”” a closure later overturned by a judge under certain conditions.

Since then, the company was ordered to cut production by 15 %, and cited for various violations, including one for “exceeding the single-stack lead emission limit” and the other for “not curtailing its emissions by the required amounts,” both issued by the air district on Friday.

The petition for shutdown comes almost two weeks after the DTSC agreed to allow Exide to remain open if the company lowered its arsenic emissions.

According to SCAQMD, Exide and the agency will meet next week to schedule hearings, potentially including public meetings in communities around Vernon.

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