Exide Technologies, headquartered in Milton, Ga., has announced plans to invest more than $7 million over the next two years to upgrade its Vernon, Calif., battery recycling plant as part of a comprehensive agreement with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).
According to Exide, the capital investments are designed to improve the Vernon plant's compliance with environmental standards and to reduce air emissions well below regulatory health risk thresholds. The planned expenditures will bring Exide's total investment in environmental upgrades at the Vernon plant since 2008 to more than $18 million.
"We continue to strive to make our Vernon plant a premier recycling facility and consider the health and safety of the community and our workforce a top priority," says Robert Caruso, Exide president and CEO. "Exide has taken aggressive steps to install new equipment at the plant and those efforts have paid off in substantially reducing emissions."
Under the agreement, Exide says it will replace on-site underground stormwater piping with a more advanced double-walled system at a cost of more than $4 million. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of the year, the company says.
According to Exide, it will begin installing additional high-efficiency filters to reduce emissions and, later, a separate device to cut organic emissions. Exide began furnace modifications early this year to reduce arsenic emissions. Preliminary tests in April showed arsenic levels below regulatory health risk thresholds, the company says. When the remaining installation is completed next summer, at a cost of more than $2.5 million, emissions are expected to be further reduced to a theoretical cancer risk of less than half the level allowed by the South Coast California Air Quality Management District (AQMD), Excide says.
"We are one of the best employers in the community and we plan to keep it that way," says John Hogarth, Exide Vernon plant manager. "Our average employee has been with us for more than 20 years, and many are the second generation in their families to work at the plant."
Exide also has begun testing soil and surface dust in the industrial neighborhood around the plant for lead, arsenic and other metals to determine whether a health risk is present.
The agreement between Exide and DTSC resolves issues stemming from a suspension order in April 2013 that shut down the Vernon plant for more than seven weeks. The facility resumed operations in late June after obtaining a preliminary injunction ruling in its favor from a Los Angeles Superior Court.
The Vernon plant recycles about 25,000 lead-acid batteries per daily and 8 million per year.