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Residents demand Exide Technologies be shut down over lead concerns

A public meeting dealing with lead contamination that surrounds the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant was held in East Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.
March 19, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Emotions ran high Wednesday night at a public meeting dealing with lead contamination that surrounds the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon.

The concern here is that the densely populated neighborhoods around the Exide plant have been in danger for years. Residents are demanding that the plant be shut down.

Residents from Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles voiced concerns about their safety after several soil samples came back with levels of lead the EPA says are concerning.

"We have a difficult time trusting you. We don't trust government first, and now we don't trust you personally," said Teresa Marcus of Boyle Heights.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control says the lead in the soil is coming from Exide Technologies, which recycles batteries.

"I think Exide lagged in investing in this plant. I know they declared bankruptcy...so I don't know that they had the capitol to invest in the way that we would want them to to minimize any potential impacts," said Brian Johnson with the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Vanessa Rodriguez, an Exide spokeswoman, says the company is in compliance with health department standards and does a service by recycling.

"Not a lot to fear here. We are part of the community. We want to be part of the solution and have been working diligently with regulators up and down the state to ensure and facilitate that we stay in compliance," said Rodriguez.

The EPA has ordered Exide to submit a plan by Friday explaining how it plans to minimize or eliminate the lead exposure.

But residents say the meeting wasn't enough and that they want Exide out of the neighborhood altogether.

"This is tiring. I've been here three times and I don't see them doing anything," said Monica Ajiz of Boyle Heights.

The California EPA says it is considering putting a layer of soil or gravel over the affected areas for a short-term solution. They stress that at this point this is not considered a public health emergency, but they do think more testing needs to be done and they are concerned.


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