BOYLE HEIGHTS (CBSLA.com) — Lead-contaminated soil continues to be removed from the yards of homes near a battery-recycling facility in the wake of an agreement between state regulators and Exide Technologies.

As part of the agreement, Exide has pledged $48 million to clean up the homes and the plant in Boyle Heights, but a closer examination of the agreement reveals it’s an installment plan.

Thus far, the Department of Toxic Substances Control says Exide has paid $6 million.

But Exide is in the middle of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, and one sentence on the second to last page of the agreement states in part:

“In the event Exide does not reorganize and emerge from Chapter 11, this stipulation and order shall be null and void as to any terms not yet performed including any future payments provided for herein but not yet paid to the department.”

When asked what would happen to the money not yet paid if Exide weren’t to emerge from bankruptcy, Thomas Strang, Exide Technologies’ Vice President, Environment Health & Safety said:

“All that would go into negotiations.”

As KCAL9’s Randy Paige reports, state regulators have allowed the facility to operate without a full permit for more than three decades.

But a recent law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will require the state to either issue a permit or shut down the plant permanently.

“I believe this agreement signals that regulators in the state of California are going to do everything they can to permit the company,” Liza Tucker of Consumer Watchdog said.

Tucker says the cleanup agreement pressures state regulators to grant the permit in order to keep the cleanup money flowing.

“The DTSC is terrified to go to the Legislature and admit that this whole fiasco is going to cost the state of California, to do it properly, anywhere from $100 million to $200 million because that is an admission that they themselves are incompetent and have created a Superfund site,” Tucker said.

Strang says the facility has been shut down to install more than $15 million in equipment that will keep the environment and community safe.

“We are doing our best to control and do the right things as far as comply with the environmental laws that were charged to work within and we do the best we can every day,” Strang said.

Strang says Exide hopes to be out of bankruptcy by next month and is working with the DTSC to receive its operating permit before the end of the year.

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