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State officials temporarily shut down Vernon battery recycler

April 24, 2013|By Jessica Garrison
  • Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) has urged action on Exide.
Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) has urged action on Exide. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

State regulators announced Wednesday that they are temporarily shutting down a Vernon battery recycler that has been under fire for posing a danger to as many as 110,000 people because of arsenic emissions.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control said its order to suspend operations came after reports this spring revealed Exide Technologies, one of the largest car battery recyclers in the world, also has been continuously releasing hazardous waste into the soil beneath its plant because of a degraded pipeline, said spokeswoman Charlotte Fadipe.

“Protection of the community’s health and environment are paramount,” said toxics department director Debbie Raphael in a statement. “This order stops releases and exposures that are completely unacceptable.”

The last time the state toxics department shut down such a large operation was in 1997, when it moved against Salinas-based technology company.

The order to stop production comes after a series of Times stories about arsenic emissions from the plant. The Air Quality Management District this year announced the emissions are posing an increased cancer risk to as many as 110,000 people living in Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park. The air district said the facility posed a higher cancer risk to more people than any of the more than 450 facilities the agency has regulated in the last 25 years.

Outraged, Los Angeles City Council members held a hearing on the facility despite it being situated in a neighboring city, and talked of taking legal action against regulators if they did not do something. State Assembly Speaker John Perez had also demanded regulators take “immediate action.”

The battery recycling plant has been operating in Vernon since 1922. Exide, which also operates in a number of other states around the country, bought the 15-acre facility in 2000. It melts down up to 40,000 batteries a day.

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Twitter: @latimesjessicag
jessica.garrison@latimes.com

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