BOYLE HEIGHTS (CBSLA.com) — A battery recycling plant in Vernon linked to environmental health hazards is under fire again.
KCAL9’s Dave Bryan reports residents demanded answers from Exide Technologies officials Wednesday night at a community forum held to discuss recent results of soil testing that found elevated lead levels in yards near the Exide plant.
State officials tried to update the community on what’s being done to deal with elevated lead levels in the soil. But the audience was unsatisfied with their answers, with attendees insisting to know why it’s taken so long for something to be done and why Exide hasn’t been shut down.
“People are dying. We see this every day. We are here to say when is for you enough?” one woman asked during the forum at the Resurrection Catholic Church. “How many people does it take for you to actually shut down this company?”
Residents of Boyle Heights, Maywood and other communities affected by toxic pollution reacted decisively, making clear nothing short of ceasing the plant’s operations would be acceptable.
State officials from the Department of Toxic Substances Control told the audience the elevated levels of lead are a concern, but not an emergency.
The department said Exide will have to eliminate exposure for the most vulnerable residents in affected areas – pregnant women and children – and will have to do more detailed follow-up testing in a wider region than before.
They also suggested residents in the affected areas take precautions.
“Just wash your hands when you come in from the front yard. Wash your children’s hands when they play in the yard,” Brian Johnson, Deputy Director of the Hazardous Waste Management Program, said.
Longtime Boyle Heights residents branded the remarks insulting.
“We know that. We’re not ignorant. We weren’t – I mean – we have some education here. And yet, they come in and say, well, you know, you need to wash your hands now. But it’s not dangerous,” one woman said.
An Exide spokeswoman said the company is doing everything it can to comply with state regulations.
“We are in compliance with all regulations, and, in fact, a December 2013 report by the AQMD staff actually showed that Exide had reduced all arsenic emissions by 95 percent,” she said.
The next step in the process is expected to come Friday when Exide is required to give its plan for how it will deal with the elevated lead levels to state health officials, who will then rule on what the following steps will be.