VERNON (CBSLA.com) — Exide Technologies, the embattled battery recycling plant in Vernon, is on the verge of being shut down.
According to officials with the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), the plant is posing a major health risk to the public.
An air quality expert told KCAL9’s Dave Bryan that the contamination at the plant is worse than originally feared and that a shutdown of the facility is imminent.
For months, the plant has been the focal point of a battle between environmentalists and business leaders.
The company’s proposal on how to fix the program has been rejected by air quality experts as being inadequate.
“The agency has not dealt with the stationary source of air pollution that has presented a risk as high as Exide’s. Exide is number one on the list, on the all-time list, of toxic polluters,” said Kurt Wiesel with South Coast AQMD.
The most dangerous component of the smoke is arsenic, a known carcinogen that has also been associated with a variety of other physical problems.
The South Coast AQMD has rejected a proposed plan from Exide to reduce the amount of arsenic coming from the plant, declaring that it would not reduce the dangerous emissions to acceptable levels..
“It’s primarily their blast furnace. It’s a furnace that’s used to melt lead, and the agency is concerned that emissions from that blast furnace are not being adequately controlled,” said Wiesel.
Oscar Magana is the Mayor of Maywood, where City Hall is just a six minute drive from the Exide plant. He doesnt mince words about his belief that the plant should be closed.
“I think the plant needs to be shutdown,” said Magana, “No more excuses. There is no more leeway for them.”
A South Coast AQMD staff report concludes that if Exide can’t come up with an adequate plan, the district should consider closing it down. The mayor says that should have been done a long time ago, and if the plant was located in a rich, white community, it would be long gone.
“If this company were located in the [Pacific] Palisades, or Beverly Hills, this company would be gone already,” said Magana. “There would be no questions about it. There wouldn’t be a second or third hearing. There wouldn’t be a second or third chance. The company would be gone. In fact, it probably would have been gone ten years ago.”
In the meantime, Mayor Magana says, the residents of his city will continue to suffer the consequences.
“There are certain areas in the city where the cancer is higher,” says Magana. “It really concerns us because the easiest way for these pollutants to travel is through the air.”
Bryan reports that Exide officials were unavailable for comment Friday but in the past said they were doing “everything” they can to be a good environmental neighbor.
The South Coast AQMD has given Exide until the end of November to get their plan to fix arsenic emissions in order.