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State cites Exide for eight new violations

VERNON — State regulators cited Exide Technologies for eight hazardous-waste violations at its local battery recycling plant, which has been a target of criticism by residents and state and local officials for years, state officials announced Jan. 28.

Exide officials said the company is already addressing the issues.

According to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, the most serious violations found during recent inspections of the plant were contaminated sludge tanks that Exide is not authorized to offer at the facility, and failure to protect against spills in an area where the company stores materials including battery acid.

The violations were detected during inspections carried out over two days in January, and during a plant visit in mid-December as part of Exide’s application for a hazardous waste permit, according to the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

“These violations represent our commitment to the community that we will keep a close watch on Exide and ensure that the facility is in compliance with all pertinent laws,” said Elise Rothschild, deputy director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control. “The company must correct these violations, and we will consider them, along with Exide’s full enforcement history, when we make our permit decision.”

Exide officials said they were working with the state to resolve the issues.

“The company is already taking action pursuant to the notice and will continue to work with the [state] so that all applicable standards and protocols are met,” said Tom Strang, vice president of environmental health and safety for Exide. “We intend to operate a premier recycling facility.”

But several local officials were quick to criticize the troubled facility for its latest problem.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, said the latest violations “only add to Exide’s long record of blatant disregard for the health and safety of our communities.”

“Exide has had ample time to clean up its act. We cannot allow it to continue operations that jeopardize the well-being of our neighbors. It’s well past time for Exide to do the right thing and clean up its act or close down.”

County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said the action by the Department of Toxic Substances Control was an encouraging example of a government response to widespread community concerns.

“This is a real victory for a community that has fought so hard in defense of the right to live in a clean and healthy environment,” Solis said. “But this is just the first step; we need to keep working to improve review and oversight over the Exide plant and any other entity that threatens the community’s well-being.”

State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon also blasted Exide.

“This is just the latest in an endless series of violations that hurt the public health and environment of the people in my district,” de Leon said. “A regulatory system that allows serial violators like Exide to exist is no system at all. I will use any and all tools at my disposal in the Senate — oversight, confirmation, and budget — to ensure situations like this never happen again.”

The battery recycling plant in Vernon has been shuttered since last March while upgrades are made to the facility to ensure it meets state air-quality standards.

When operational, the plant recycles about 25,000 batteries daily. It is one of only two lead-acid battery recycling plants west of the Rockies.

The plant does not have a hazardous waste facility permit from the state. It had been operating under an interim permit from the state. A decision on whether to issue a full permit is expected sometime this year, according to the Department of Toxic Substances Control.