Battery Smelter to Hold Public Meetings

Exide Technologies will hold meetings after test results alarm residents near California plant.

Exide Technologies, which operates a recycled lead acid battery smelting facility in Vernon, Calif., will be holding a series of meetings this spring to inform residents of cancer risks related to arsenic emissions from the facility.

In March, 2013, California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) reviewed and approved a health risk assessment from Exide showing that the facility is causing a potential impact to as many as 110,000 residents in an area that includes portions of Vernon, Maywood, Huntington Park, Commerce, Boyle Heights and unincorporated areas of east Los Angeles.

“We are working with Exide to take immediate steps to reduce their emissions and the associated risk,” says Barry Wallerstein, executive officer of the SCAQMD. “Meanwhile, Exide must follow a strict timeline to implement a long-term solution.”

According to an SCAQMD news release, Exide officials, in cooperation with the District, will schedule public meetings in May 2013 to inform residents of any health risks as well as steps the company is taking to reduce it.

Under California’s AB2588 law facilities that emit toxic air pollutants must develop health risk assessments using scientific tools to estimate the risk of cancer as well as non-cancer health effects to residents. Facilities must notify residents if the calculated risk is 10 in 1 million or more. If the risk is higher than 25 in 1 million, the facility must develop and implement a plan to reduce it below that threshold within three years.

Exide’s health risk assessment shows a maximum cancer risk of 156 in 1 million, mostly because of arsenic emissions exposure to workers at a facility in Vernon next to Exide. Residents living downwind of the facility would be exposed to a much lower risk because of dispersion of toxic air contaminants over distance.

In the meantime, SCAQMD officials are working with Exide to permit modifications to a furnace at the facility to reduce arsenic emissions.

SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and much of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.