UPDATE, April 15: California's state Assembly unanimously approved (73-0) to spend $176.6 million on cleaning up lead contamination at the Exide Technologies site. This money will also go toward testing contamination levels in surrounding areas.
Assemblyman Miguel Santiago has a son who lives near the plant and now needs to take medication and wear a breathing mask due to harmful toxins released in the air from the site. "This is a critical component to a long fight in our community ... For 33 years, we have had Exide dump on our community, and it’s inexcusable that they have been able to operate in our community with a temporary permit," he said to the Los Angeles Times.
This issue is comparable to the lead-tainted water crisis in Flint, MI, according to Assemblyman Luis Alejo.
UPDATE, April 1: California state officials announced Wednesday that they will begin to use blood test results from children to narrow focus of a massive cleanup in Los Angeles County, which is the result of a defunct battery recycling plant that released harmful toxins into the air.
The Los Angeles Times reported that environmental regulators have received an analysis of children's blood lead levels and will use that data to "further refine and target our testing and cleanup," according to Director of the State Department of Toxic Substances Control Barbara Lee.
However, many state legislators and other community leaders have expressed frustration, saying that blood testing data should have been used 19 months ago when the cleanup of the Exide plant began.
"We're still investigating to ensure that this never happens again, either in my community or any other community, when we're facing a health crisis like this," said Assemblyman Miguel Santiago to the Los Angeles Times.
- The Battery Council International (BCI) has announced that the lead battery industry will collaborate with the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) on the cleanup of the defunct Exide Technologies in Vernon, CA following Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for $176.6 million in state funds to support the project — in which Exide will invest at least $50 million.
- Overall it will cost hundreds of millions to address homes, schools, day-care centers, and parks impacted by harmful toxins released into the air, the result of the Georgia-based company’s 40-plus years of melting lead from car batteries and other materials, as earlier reported in the Los Angeles Times. Exide not only stated it produced lead, cadmium, arsenic, and volatile organic compounds at the California site, but the company admitted to engaging in illegal protocol to store, dispose, ship, and transport these wastes.
- According to a February Los Angeles Times article, Exide would pay the government over the next year to test 10,000 homes near the plant and to clean up 2,500 homes with especially high lead known to pose risk for poisoning.
According to BCI, more lead batteries are recycled than any product in the world; the commodity claims a 99% recycle rate in North America. They have their purposes and even environmental benefits if they are recycled properly, in that they contribute to vehicle control systems to reduce air emissions generated by vehicle manufacturers.
But battery recyclers are also among the top generators of toxic waste that have left their mark on the environment through careless handling of automobile batteries when reclaiming their lead, or when discarded acid and rinse water leak from storage containers into soil and groundwater — potentially costing millions in remediation.
The Exide project is "clearly the largest cleanup the department has ever undertaken," Barbara Lee, director of the DTSC, told Los Angeles Times.
Mark Thorsby, BCI executive vice president said the industry’s closed-loop process is "critical to ensuring the safety and sustainability of these essential products. We look forward to working with the governor and the legislature to assure ongoing, safe battery recycling and prompt attention to public health concerns," according to Recycling Today.