Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina. Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina. Photo by John Schreiber.

Saying state regulators have failed, a county supervisor said Wednesday she hopes to find a way to permanently shut down the Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon.

Supervisor Gloria Molina wants county attorneys to evaluate legal options for forcing a shutdown and abatement of contamination from the plant. She plans to bring the matter to her colleagues on the Board of Supervisors next week.

State regulators know “that unacceptable levels of lead, arsenic and benzene caused by Exide’s battery recycling operation have contaminated air, water and soil in the surrounding area,” Molina said. “This community deserves better.”

The plant has been closed since mid-March while management works to upgrade pollution controls and meet other regulatory requirements.

In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control — which has allowed the plant to operate under a temporary permit for 33 years — to either issue a permanent permit or shut the plant down by the end of 2015.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that Exide was the worst lead polluter in California and the third worst in the nation,” Molina said.

In May, the EPA announced that the plant violated federal limits on lead emissions on more than 30 occasions between September and April.

A toxic threat strike team established by the county identified 39 homes in Boyle Heights and Maywood where elevated levels of lead were found in yards.

Exide, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year, has said the lead in nearby homes may come from sources other than the plant, but said it is collaborating with regulators.

Investigations by the DTSC also found instances of acid battery waste leaking from trailers on site and at least one truck transporting the hazardous material from the Vernon facility. A federal grand jury is investigating whether criminal charges are warranted.

The plant, in operation since 1922, had been recycling about 25,000 batteries daily, a function Exide called critical to environmental sustainability.

— City  News Service

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