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Air Quality Officials Sue Vernon Battery Recycling Plant Over ‘Toxic Emissions’

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The Exide Technologies plant has been closed since March. (credit: CBS)

The Exide Technologies plant has been closed since March. (credit: CBS)

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Air quality officials are seeking up to $40 million in penalties from a Vernon company for numerous alleged air quality violations due primarily to illegal emissions of lead and arsenic.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday against Exide Technologies, a lead-acid battery recycling plant in operation since 1922.

SCAQMD executive officer Barry Wallerstein said in a statement the firm has had a “steady stream of operational problems” resulting in toxic emissions that he says have exposed more than 100,000 residents to cancer risk.

“For that reason we are seeking to recover a significant penalty from them,” he stated in part.

The plant currently recycles 23,000 to 41,000 batteries daily.

However, SCAQMD is seeking an order from the independent SCAQMD Hearing Board that would require Exide to stop its smelting operations until it can improve its air pollution control systems to reduce arsenic emissions.

SCAQMD required Exide to strengthen and resubmit a risk reduction plan to reduce its arsenic emissions.

In early 2013, SCAQMD approved a Health Risk Assessment from Exide showing that the facility was causing an unacceptably high cancer risk for 110,000 residents in southeast Los Angeles County primarily due to its arsenic emissions.

SCAQMD then required the facility to develop a risk reduction plan under the agency’s Rule 1402 and the state’s Toxic Hot Spots law.

The agency rejected Exide’s first plan as inadequate and is now evaluating the company’s resubmitted plan.

A spokesperson for Exide was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CBSLA.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

RELATED STORY:

Residents On Edge As Lead Monitoring Continues Near Exide Plant

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