Exide faces a long, costly cleanup of closed Vernon plant - L.A. Times

Community members gather at an Eastside home to celebrate the Exide agreement. Residents want the company to follow through on the cleanup of lead in their neighborhoods and homes.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The deal federal prosecutors struck with Exide Technologies this month to permanently close its battery recycling plant in Vernon and avoid criminal charges marks the beginning of a long and costly cleanup. The plant leaves behind decades' worth of pollution and hazardous waste, along with many questions about how the mess will be taken care of.

Who will oversee the cleanup and how long will it take?

Soil and blood testing in Boyle Heights, Maywood

Exide's March 11 agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office requires it to spend at least $50 million to demolish and clean the 15-acre facility that had melted down lead from used car batteries and other sources since 1922, releasing dangerous pollutants into the air. The company must also remove lead contamination from hundreds of homes in southeast Los Angeles County.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control will supervise the cleanup under a separate agreement with Exide. Once work begins, officials estimate it will take about two years for the company to remove buildings and other structures. It will take at least two more years to study the extent of contamination at the Vernon site and clean it.

State officials do not know how long it will take to remove lead-contaminated soil from homes near the plant. Since last August, crews have cleaned soil from about 40 of more than 150 properties where elevated lead levels have been found. Each yard takes about a week and costs about $45,000 to clean.

How much will it cost and who will pay?

Closing and cleaning the Exide plant site will cost at least $38.6 million, and probably more, state officials say. Cleaning nearby homes will cost at least $9 million. Both efforts will be paid for by Georgia-based Exide, which is expected to emerge from bankruptcy at the end of the month.

Exide is required to put most of the cleanup money into trust funds in a series of payments over the next five years. The company has paid about $16 million so far.

After an October 2013 inspection by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, regulators wrote that "Water which leaked from the 40-foot trailers appeared to puddle over a period of time." (California Department of Toxic Substances Control)


Exide's troubled history: years of pollution violations but few penalties

State and federal officials say their agreements with Exide, designed to prevent the company's liquidation, require it to pay for the full cleanup, no matter the cost.

Which homes will be cleaned?

The state toxics department is focusing on 217 properties in parts of Boyle Heights and Maywood that air modeling shows are most likely to be affected by Exide's emissions. Officials have promised to clean any home in those areas with lead levels above 80 parts per million, based on a composite from multiple soil samples at each property.

Crews have tested an additional 144 homes in an expanded, two-square-mile area of southeast L.A. County. But the department said it has not finished evaluating those results, and officials would not say whether homes in that larger area would be cleaned.

DTSC spokeswoman Tamma Adamek said the agency will "hold Exide responsible for paying to clean up all areas that contain Exide's contamination if additional information demonstrates the need."

What if Exide does not comply?

Exide could be prosecuted. Under the deal with the U.S. attorney's office, the company admitted to two decades of criminal conduct at the facility, including illegal storage, disposal and shipment of hazardous waste.

After an October 2013 inspection by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, regulators wrote that "Water which leaked from the 40-foot trailers appeared to puddle over a period of time." (California Department of Toxic Substances Control)

If the company does not fulfill its cleanup obligations, it could be charged with those felonies at any time in the next 10 years.

What is the status of tests for lead poisoning in nearby communities?

In April 2014 the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health began a screening program to test for lead in the blood of residents who live near the plant. The testing, funded by Exide, is available to more than 100,000 people who live and work within about a two-mile radius of Exide, including parts of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Commerce, Bell, Maywood and Huntington Park.

Exide's deal with federal prosecutors extends free blood lead testing for another five years.

What have the blood tests shown?

Of about 600 people tested so far, none had lead levels high enough to require medical intervention, Dr. Cyrus Rangan, director of the county health department's Bureau of Toxicology and Environmental Assessment, said last month. "It's all within the ballpark of expectations for the rest of the county," he said.

Only five adults tested above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers elevated in children. No child had levels higher than 3 micrograms per deciliter, the health department said. But the program has drawn few young children, who are most at risk for lead poisoning.


tony.barboza@latimes.com
Twitter: @tonybarboza

Posted on March 21, 2015 and filed under Exide Vernon Plant.

East L.A. Party with Monsignor John

At the great party thrown for the Federal Investigation Team that shut down the Exide Technologies Battery recycling plant in Vernon.  I attended with my wife, Annette, who's tireless and tenacious investigation of Exide's 30+ years of criminal activity brought down the battery giant's Vernon plant.

 

Scientist/Investigators Rick Jones and Paul Baranich of DTSC also attended as well as Joe Johns of the U.S. Attorney's office who negotiated the closure with Exide.  The party featured a great Mariachi Band, abundant deserts (the "Just Deserts" as I call them), a good Italian (Italian!?) dinner, and wonderful people to celebrate the victory with.

 

Thanks to Monsignor John who threw the party for Annette and the church community who worked for years to bring the communities' plight to the attention of the press and public!

 

- Craig O'Donnelly

The Exide Vernon Plant Closure Team at the East L.A. Party.

(left to right) Joe Johns - Asst. U.S. Atty., Unnamed Church Activist, William Carter, Unnamed Church Activist, Rick Jones - DTSC Scientist/Investigator, Annette O'Donnelly - Lead Investigator EPA CID, Paul Baranich - DTSC Scientist/Investigator, Monsignor John - Church Activist, Unnamed Church Activist.

The Just Deserts... and Jesus.

Olivia & Annette being weird.

Church Activist Protest Poster

Church Activist Protest Poster

Posted on March 15, 2015 and filed under Exide Vernon Plant.

KCRW - Exide Plant Closes

We start today with a look at the Exide battery plant in Vernon, which is closing and cleaning up its site after decades as a notorious polluter. How did the company escape prosecution? Also, where will all those batteries now go to die?

Posted on March 15, 2015 and filed under Exide Vernon Plant.

Exide Recycling Plant Ordered To Close Immediately Under Agreement With US Attorney - CBS L.A.

VERNON (CBSLA.com) — The embattled Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon will immediately and permanently shut down under an agreement made with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The agreement, reached Wednesday night, stated Exide Technologies, on South Indiana Street between East 26th Street and Bandini Boulevard, will close and pay millions for its clean-up to avoid prosecution.

Exide will have to set aside $38.6 million for the closure and clean-up of the 15-acre site and an additional $9 million for the cleanup of the soil around area homes.

The company also admitted, as part of the deal, that it illegally stored, shipped and disposed of hazardous waste.

Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Environmental Crime section, Joseph Johns, the architect of the agreement, vowed Wednesday to prosecute if the company does not follow through on its end of the bargain.

Posted on March 14, 2015 .

Have I Told You That I Love My Wife...?

From my Facebook page:

Annette O'Donnelly

Exide Technologies Case Lead Criminal Investigator, EPA CID

Annette being all cool in Hawaii

Annette being all cool in Hawaii

I would like to tell you about the amazing thing that my wife, Annette O'Donnelly accomplished. Yesterday, the Exide Battery recycling plant closure settlement was announced. Exide agreed to shut down their Vernon plant that had been polluting the neighborhoods around it with lead and arsenic for over 30 years. Vernon's residents, including thousands of children most vulnerable to these toxic substances, have been forced to tolerate this situation as California's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) was unwilling or unable to do anything about it for decades.

I am so proud of my wife, Annette O'Donnelly, who was the sole investigator on this case for U.S. EPA CID, and fought ceaselessly for this settlement that not only stopped the poisoning of Vernon, but saved at least 10,000 jobs worldwide. No other investigator had the sense of duty, the courage, the passion or the determination to do the right thing as Annette did during this investigation. She also singlehandedly reviewed hundreds of thousands of documents during the course of her investigation. Annette even had to fight against her own agency, EPA CID, which did not support this settlement and has disavowed all involvement in it, going so far as to forbid her from attending the press conference yesterday.

My thanks also go out to scientists Paul Baranich and Rick Jones at DTSC who conducted interviews, interpreted and provided scientific direction and who supported Annette in her investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns, who pushed the prosecution forward in a tenacious and timely manner.

Posted on March 13, 2015 and filed under Exide Vernon Plant.

Exide To Shut Down Vernon Battery Recycling Plant, Pay $50 Million For Clean-Up - ABC 7

VERNON, Calif. (KABC) -- The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday the permanent closure of a battery recycling plant in Vernon operated by Exide Technologies. The company will also pay $50 million to clean up the site and nearby neighborhoods affected by dangerous toxins released from its facility. 

"The reign of toxic lead ends today," acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura said in a statement. "After more than nine decades of ongoing lead contamination in the City of Vernon, neighborhoods can now start to breathe easier."

The battery recycling plant has sat idle for a year due to major legal and environmental problems.

The State Department of Toxic Substances Control found that Exide had been releasing cancer-causing arsenic into the air for years. The facility's failing pipes also leaked water contaminated with hazardous wastes into the soil below the facility. Authorities found elevated levels of lead in the soil of homes and a school near the Vernon plant.

Exide had two choices after these discoveries: shut down or face criminal charges, federal prosecutors said.

As part of the deal, Exide acknowledged it illegally stored, disposed and transported hazardous waste. The company also admitted that it produced hazardous wastes, including lead, cadmium, arsenic and volatile organic compounds.

The facility is expected to be demolished and cleaned up. 

"The agreement to close the plant is the best outcome for the health of exposed residents. It is the best outcome for society," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who represents Vernon.

Federal prosecutors said the final agreement will cost the company about $100 million to comply, including losses incurred from recent improvements to the facility. About $9 million will go into trust fund for the clean-up of 216 residences in Boyle Heights and Maywood.

In exchange, Exide will not face criminal charges. If the agreement is not followed, the government could prosecute Exide for any crimes committed.

"Without the NPA (Non-Prosecution Agreement), prosecutors believe, Exide would cease to exist as a viable company and responsibility to clean up toxic sites like the recycling plant in Vernon would revert to governmental agencies," prosecutors said in a statement.

Exide operates several facilities across the country. In 2013, the company filed for bankruptcy.

"We recognize the impacts that closing the Vernon facility will have on our approximately 130 employees and their families. By obtaining plan confirmation and emerging from Chapter 11, Exide expects to be able to meet its closure and cleanup obligations under these agreements," Exide released in a statement.

Posted on March 12, 2015 .

Reuters - UPDATE 2 - Exide to close California battery recycling plant to avoid prosecution

By Ayesha Rascoe

(Reuters) - Exide Technologies has agreed to shutter its lead-acid battery recycling facility in Vernon, California, and pay $50 million in clean-up costs to avoid criminal prosecution for illegal storage of hazardous waste.

As part of a deal reached late Wednesday with the U.S. Attorney's Office in California's central district, Exide also admitted to storing lead-contaminated hazardous waste inside leaking van trailers on a number of occasions over the past two decades.

"The reign of toxic lead ends today," said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura in a statement. "After more than nine decades of ongoing lead contamination in the city of Vernon, neighborhoods can now start to breathe easier."

Exide will "immediately and permanently cease" recycling operations at the plant, demolish the facility and clean up any groundwater contamination at the site and surrounding neighborhoods, according to the agreement.

Exide Technologies, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, has operated the recycling plant since 2000, but the facility has been in use since 1922.

The company said in a statement that it would ask the court handling its bankruptcy to approve the agreement.

Once the company emerges from the Chapter 11 proceedings, Exide said it "expects to be able to meet its closure and cleanup obligations."

The Vernon facility had employed about 130 workers.

Federal prosecutors agreed to not prosecute Exide or any of its employees for 10 years as long as the company complies with the terms of the deal.

The government said it accepted the agreement because the threat of criminal prosecution would likely force the liquidation of the company, leaving federal agencies to clean up the Vernon site. (Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; editing by Alan Crosby, G Crosse and Ted Botha)

Posted on March 12, 2015 .

Exide Technologies to Close Vernon, California Facility - CNN Money

Company Enters into Non-Prosecution Agreement with U.S. Attorney's Office and Agreement with Department of Toxic Substances Control Related to Financial Assurance for Closure

March 12, 2015: 01:13 PM ET

MILTON, Ga., March 12, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Exide Technologies (OTCQB:XIDEQ) (www.exide.com) ("Exide" or the "Company"), a global leader in stored electrical-energy solutions, today announced that the Company will immediately move to permanently close its lead-acid battery recycling facility in Vernon, California (the "Vernon Facility") under the terms of a non-prosecution agreement reached with the United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of California (the "USAO") that resolves the USAO's criminal investigation into Exide.

In conjunction with the closure of the Vernon Facility, Exide also has entered into an amendment to the 2014 stipulation and order with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (the "Department") that provides a framework for the orderly closure and cleanup of the Vernon Facility. Exide reached this amendment after, among other developments, hearing from the Department that it would likely deny Exide's Part B hazardous waste facility permit application.

Exide is requesting that the Bankruptcy Court approve the agreements as well as authorize the Company to close the Vernon Facility at a hearing scheduled for March 27, 2015, at which the Company also will seek confirmation of its Chapter 11 Plan of Reorganization.

"The agreements with the USAO and the Department should allow us to resolve key conditions to funding of the backstop commitment agreement, and to continue to pursue plan confirmation," said Robert M. Caruso, President and Chief Executive Officer of Exide Technologies. "We recognize the impacts that closing the Vernon Facility will have on our approximately 130 employees and their families. On behalf of the Company, I thank them and the United Steel Workers Union for their commitment and dedication." 

By obtaining plan confirmation and emerging from Chapter 11, Exide expects to be able to meet its closure and cleanup obligations under these agreements, continue to honor its environmental obligations at its other facilities, and preserve nearly 10,000 jobs globally.

Additional details can be found in the Company's Current Report on Form 8-K, to be filed at http://ir.exide.com/sec.cfm. Bankruptcy Court filings, including the Motions, are available at http://www.exiderestructures.com. Interested parties may direct questions about Exide's bankruptcy using the following toll-free numbers: 888.985.9831 for U.S. suppliers or 855.291.0287 for all other groups.

About Exide Technologies

Exide Technologies, with operations in more than 80 countries, is one of the world's largest producers and recyclers of lead-acid batteries. The Company's global business groups provide a comprehensive range of stored electrical energy products and services for industrial and transportation applications. Transportation markets include original-equipment and aftermarket automotive, heavy-duty truck, agricultural and marine applications, and new technologies for hybrid vehicles and automotive applications. Industrial markets include network power applications such as telecommunications, electric utilities, railroads, photovoltaic (solar-power related) and uninterruptible power supply (UPS), and motive-power applications including lift trucks, mining and other commercial vehicles.

Forward Looking Statement 

This press release contains forward-looking statements with respect to our Chapter 11 filing and related matters. These forward-looking statements are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements.

Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from these forward looking statements include, but are not limited to, the following general factors such as: (i) there can be no assurance that the Company will satisfy the conditions of the PSA or the backstop commitment agreement, (ii) the Company may be unable to confirm and consummate the Chapter 11 plan of reorganization, (iii) the risks associated with operating businesses under Chapter 11 protection, (iv) the ability of the Company to comply with the terms of the DIP financing facility , (v) the risk factors or uncertainties listed from time to time in the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in connection with the Company's Chapter 11 filing, (vi) the Company may be unable to implement and fund business strategies based on current liquidity, (vii) the Company's substantial debt and debt service requirements may restrict the Company's operational and financial flexibility, as well as imposing significant interest and financing costs, (viii) the litigation proceedings to which the Company is subject could have a material adverse effect on the Company and its businesses, (ix) competitiveness of the battery markets in the Americas and Europe, (x) risks involved in foreign operations such as disruption of markets, changes in import and export laws, currency restrictions, currency exchange rate fluctuations and possible terrorist attacks against U.S. interests, (xi) the ability to acquire goods and services and/or fulfill later needs at budgeted costs, (xii) regulatory risks and uncertainties could affect the Company's businesses or profitability, or (xiii) general economic conditions.

CONTACT: MEDIA and INVESTOR CONTACTS:
 Jeannine Addams
 Kristin Wohlleben
 J. Addams & Partners, Inc.
 404.231.1132 phone
 jfaddams@jaddams.com
 kwohlleben@jaddams.com
Posted on March 12, 2015 .

Exide Battery Plant to Close in Vernon - KCRW

Click here to listen to this story (7mins. 11 secs.)

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura announced this week that after more than 90 years, the Vernon battery recycling plant a few miles from downtown L.A. is shutting down for good. It was a notorious polluter. Now, after years of complaints and a federal investigation, Exide, the company that operates the plant, has made a deal to demolish the plant and pay for the cleanup. That’s estimated to cost at least $50 million. But under the agreement, the company will not be prosecuted. We look at how the settlement came about.

Guests:
Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times (@tonybarboza)

Posted on March 12, 2015 .

The Bigger Problem of Battery Waste - KCRW

Click here to listen to this story (6mins. 44 secs.)

So what’s going to happen with all those batteries now that the Exide plant is closed? Where will they be recycled? We take a broader look at the system of battery disposal -- a bigger and bigger issue to deal with these days.

Guests:
Mark Murray, Californians Against Waste

 

http://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/press-play-with-madeleine-brand/exide-battery-plant-closes-a-karl-ove-knausgaard-subject-and-going-clear/the-bigger-problem-of-battery-waste

Posted on March 12, 2015 and filed under Exile Vernon Plant.

Exide Non-Prosecution Agreement

Ex­ide Tech­no­lo­gies will im­me­di­ately be­gin shut­ting down its em­battled bat­tery re­cyc­ling plant in Ver­non after reach­ing an agree­ment that al­lows the com­pany to avoid fa­cing crim­in­al pro­sec­u­tion for dec­ades of pol­lu­tion.

From the L.A. Times website:

Click here to read the actual Exide Non-Prosecution Agreement Document.

Click here to read Appendixes 1 - 2.

Click here to read Appendixes 3 - 6.

Posted on March 12, 2015 and filed under Exide Vernon Plant.

California car battery recycler to close in deal with Feds - Chicago Daily Herald

By BRIAN MELLEY

LOS ANGELES -- A battery recycling plant that violated hazardous waste laws and spewed toxic emissions for decades on the outskirts of Los Angeles will close and spend $50 million to clean the site and surrounding neighborhoods, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Exide Technologies admitted felony violations over 20 years but avoided criminal prosecution in the agreement that achieves what residents of surrounding poor communities couldn't get state regulators to do for years despite a long history of violation notices and fines.

"Our long nightmare is over," Monsignor John Moretta of Resurrection Church said on behalf of community groups. "We have attended dozens and dozens of meetings and hearings always fighting for what we saw as something obvious: Exide was poisoning our community and had to be closed."

The 15-acre Vernon plant, 5 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, had been idle for a year amid legal and environmental battles, but its owners hoped to reopen.

Local, state and federal officials have for years cited Exide for emitting excessive lead and arsenic and violating hazardous material laws.

The agreement allows the Milton, Georgia-based company to emerge from bankruptcy and afford the cleanup rather than being forced to liquidate assets and close operations in more than 80 countries, where it employs about 10,000 people.

"If the company was no longer viable, we would no longer be able to achieve the immediate result of the facility's closure, and the government would be left holding the bag for the cleanup," Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura said. "This is the best solution for a very difficult environmental problem."

The cleanup will be overseen by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, which issued an order Thursday to close the facility after finding it cannot meet public health and environmental safeguards.

The department was harshly criticized for failing to protect the public as dangerously high lead levels were found in the lawns of people living in Maywood and the city's largely Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights.

"The facility was allowed to operate without a permit for decades, leaking lead, arsenic and other hazardous waste materials into the streets where children play," state Senate leader Kevin De Leon said at a legislative hearing Thursday. "Those who let this happen must be held accountable."

DTSC Director Barbara Lee said later that given her agency's history she understands skepticism about it making sure Exide follows through with the cleanup. But she said the department had shown in the past two years it was serious about cracking down on the plant.

The company said it signed the agreement with prosecutors after being notified DTSC would reject its hazardous waste facility permit.

The agreement requires Exide to use $38.6 million it agreed to set aside last fall for closure and cleanup of its site and another $9 million for cleaning up soil around 216 surrounding homes. After those homes are cleaned up, the company must expand cleanup to other areas.

Cleanup is expected to take at least five years and is one of eight sites the company is responsible for cleaning up nationwide, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns.

If Exide doesn't complete the cleanup, it could be criminally prosecuted and face fines up to $500,000 a day for each felony violation of illegal disposal, storage and transportation of hazardous waste it admitted over two decades. The company acknowledged it hauled waste in leaking trucks more than 100 miles from Los Angeles to a Bakersfield facility not permitted to receive hazardous material, Johns said.

He said the decision was tough for prosecutors, but it made more sense for the community.

"The right thing to do was not worry about sending one or two people to jail for a year or two, but rather prevent another 50- to 100-year sentence for 110,000 people," Johns said.

The Vernon plant had been in operation since 1922 when Exide took over in 2000.

It employed 130 people in recycling operations that melted down the lead core in used car batteries and shipped the lead to Exide's battery manufacturing plants. Prosecutors estimated the plant recycled 30,000 to 40,000 batteries a day and grossed $15 million to $38 million a year.

Community and environmental groups planned a meeting Thursday night to celebrate the closure.

"We've been the dumping ground for Exide for so long," said Mark Lopez, who grew up in Boyle Heights and is the third-generation of his family to demonstrate against the plant. "For a long time Exide was told they didn't have to follow the rules."

The rules are now set down in a six-page agreement signed by the company's CEO.

___

Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/

 

 

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns, right, with Bill Swallow, left, special agent in charge of Dept. of Transportation Office of Inspector General talks during a news conference in Los Angeles, Thursday, March 12, 2015. A Los Angeles County battery recycling plant with a long history of violations of air pollution and hazardous waste laws will close under the agreement with federal prosecutors that requires the company to spend $50 million to clean up the site and surrounding neighborhoods. The deal will result in the immediate and permanent shuttering of the Exide Technologies plant, in Vernon, Calif.    Associated Press

 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns, right, with Bill Swallow, left, special agent in charge of Dept. of Transportation Office of Inspector General talks during a news conference in Los Angeles, Thursday, March 12, 2015. A Los Angeles County battery recycling plant with a long history of violations of air pollution and hazardous waste laws will close under the agreement with federal prosecutors that requires the company to spend $50 million to clean up the site and surrounding neighborhoods. The deal will result in the immediate and permanent shuttering of the Exide Technologies plant, in Vernon, Calif.

Associated Press

    Acting US Attorney Stephanie Yonekura announces a major environmental agreement at a news conference in Los Angeles, Thursday, March 12, 2015. A Los Angeles County battery recycling plant with a long history of violations of air pollution and hazardous waste laws will close under the agreement with federal prosecutors that requires the company to spend $50 million to clean up the site and surrounding neighborhoods.The deal will result in the immediate and permanent shuttering of the Exide Technologies plant, in Vernon, Calif., Yonekura said Thursday.     Associated Press

 

Acting US Attorney Stephanie Yonekura announces a major environmental agreement at a news conference in Los Angeles, Thursday, March 12, 2015. A Los Angeles County battery recycling plant with a long history of violations of air pollution and hazardous waste laws will close under the agreement with federal prosecutors that requires the company to spend $50 million to clean up the site and surrounding neighborhoods.The deal will result in the immediate and permanent shuttering of the Exide Technologies plant, in Vernon, Calif., Yonekura said Thursday.


Associated Press

Posted on March 12, 2015 and filed under Exide Vernon Plant.

Exide Battery Plant In Vernon To Close Permanently, Sources Confirm - CBS L.A.

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A battery recycling plant in Vernon is expected to close down permanently, it was reported Wednesday.

Sources confirmed to CBS2’s Randy Paige that Exide Technologies struck a deal with the U.S. attorney’s office.

As part of the agreement, in exchange for tearing down the battery recycling plant and cleaning up the 15-acre site, Exide will avoid criminal charges.

Exide will be required to keep clean-up costs in a trust in the amount of $9 million to clear lead-contaminated soil from nearby homes in Boyle Heights.

No further information was immediately available.

Posted on March 11, 2015 .

Exide hazardous waste dripped onto roads from trucks, records show - L.A. Times

Personal Note: This issue was one of the mainstays of Annette O'Donnelly's investigation into Exide as well as other companies illegally transporting hazardous waste from battery recycling plants in the L.A. area.

By TONY BARBOZA

Hazardous waste from an embattled Vernon battery recycler dripped from tractor-trailers onto public roadways last year, according to recently released public documents in which a state environmental inspector called the leaks an "on-going problem" that "needs to be addressed immediately."

The leaks of acid- and lead-tainted liquid could be an important piece of a criminal investigation of Exide Technologies by a federal grand jury. In a financial disclosure in August, the Milton, Ga.-based company reported that it had received a subpoena requesting "documents relating to materials transportation and air emissions" from its Vernon plant.

Inspection report on Exide battery plant

Spills were observed by state inspectors at the Vernon facility and by the California Highway Patrol, which last summer stopped a dripping tractor-trailer transporting acid battery waste from the Exide plant at a weigh station off Interstate 5 in Castaic, government records show.

The newly revealed problems are detailed in a series of California Department of Toxic Substances Control inspection reports and other public documents that were first reported by KCBS-TV, Channel 2.

Exide declined to comment on the issues raised in the documents because they were related to the grand jury investigation, said spokeswoman Vanessa Rodriguez.

Few residents near Exide plant undergo testing for lead levels

The facility, which was idled in March and is about five miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, has been under fire from community groups in recent years. Air quality regulators have cited Exide for emitting too much lead and arsenic, saying last year that the plant posed a health risk to more than 100,000 residents. State toxic waste regulators blame the plant's emissions for elevated levels of lead in the soil of dozens of homes in nearby Boyle Heights and Maywood.

On Aug. 10, 2013, during a stop on northbound Interstate 5 in Castaic, officers discovered battery acid leaking from a tractor-trailer onto the asphalt, according to a CHP incident report. The vehicle, owned by Lutrel Trucking Inc., was transporting plastic chips from the casings of crushed auto batteries to KW Plastics, a recycling facility in Bakersfield. Officers called the Los Angeles County Fire Department's hazardous materials division to clean up the spill.

 

Related story: Brown sets deadline for Exide plant on hazardous waste

Three days later, on Aug. 13, 2013, Department of Toxic Substances Control staff inspected the Exide facility in Vernon and found trailers storing those chips were leaking liquid with hazardous levels of lead, the agency's records show.

After finding similar problems at several more on-site inspections, state regulators in October 2013 cited Exide for three hazardous waste violations, directed the facility to take corrective action and to "store hazardous waste plastic chips in containers that do not leak."

Though it is not clear when it was written, a handwritten note in the state's citation also mentioned the trailer that CHP stopped on the interstate.

"DTSC is concerned that leaking from the containers while on public roads is an on-going problem, and this issue needs to be addressed immediately," the note said. "Leaking of hazardous waste is considered illegal disposal."

In a written response to questions from The Times, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control said it discovered the leaking trailers at the Vernon facility in August 2013 and that the CHP report from Interstate 5 that same month was the only on-road incident the agency was aware of.

"Contamination levels of the release did not pose a public health risk," the agency's statement said. "There was no impact on the surrounding community or the environment."

The agency said the problem stemmed from a broken dryer the company had used to dry plastic chips from used battery casings, which are washed to remove lead and other hazardous waste.

 

Related story: California expands lead soil testing area near Exide plant in Vernon

"The Department will not allow Exide to transport chips in that type of trailer in the future," the agency's statement said, adding that it was reviewing a modification to its hazardous waste permit that would solve the problem by allowing the company to replace the broken dryer.

The department has for decades allowed the Exide facility in Vernon to operate with only a temporary permit, though a new state lawrequires the facility to obtain a full permit by the end of next year or be shut down.

The plant was idled because it could not meet strict new arsenic emissions rules adopted by local air quality officials in January. It has operated since 1922 and was taken over in 2000 by Exide, one of the world's largest producers of lead acid batteries. Exide filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year.

Msgr. John Moretta of Resurrection Catholic Church in Boyle Heights, whose parishioners have demanded the plant's permanent closure, called the latest development "another sign of the disrespect that Exide has exercised over the years as a bad neighbor."

Leaking trailers are not a new problem at the facility, state records show.

A 1990 report that California regulators submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that samples collected from loads shipped from the Vernon facility, then operated by the firm GNB, "found hazardous levels of lead leaking onto Interstate 5."

tony.barboza@latimes.com

Twitter: @tonybarboza

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Posted on October 15, 2014 and filed under Exide Vernon Plant.