The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Photo by John Schreiber.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Photo by John Schreiber.

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to urge Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators to allocate more money to cleaning up contamination caused by the now-shuttered Exide battery plant.

Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended sending a letter to Brown and legislative leaders.

“I look forward to working with leaders in the Legislature to explore funding more commensurate with the scope of the problem than the $8.5 million proposed by the governor,” Solis said.

“The state’s numbers indicate that the cleanup could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. At the rate proposed by the governor, this would take decades.”

In October, the board approved $2 million in funding to help speed the cleanup of contaminated soil around the now-closed Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon, with Solis saying the state was dragging its feet.

Exide agreed in March to close its lead-acid battery recycling plant and pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods.

Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup. As of August, Exide, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, had paid $9 million into a trust and another $5 million was due to be paid in by March 2020, according to state officials.

As many as 1,000 homes may be found to have toxicity concentrated enough to qualify as hazardous waste, and the state has estimated that 5,000-10,000 homes may ultimately require some cleanup.

The plant, which produced a host of hazardous wastes, including lead, arsenic and benzene, operated for 33 years without a permanent permit. Efforts to upgrade the equipment and safety procedures repeatedly failed to meet environmental standards.

Though gaseous plant emissions are no longer an issue, lead contamination in the soil, which can cause developmental delays and cognitive impairments, remains a concern.

A public health spokesman has also cited the increased risk of cancer linked to other chemicals once emitted by the plant.

Boyle Heights and Maywood have the highest levels of residential contamination, but the area of exposure stretches to encompass roughly 2 million people, according to Angelo Bellomo, director of the county’s Environmental Health Division.

–City News Service

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