Task Force to Fight Battery Plant Pollution | NBC Southern California

Task Force to Fight Battery Plant Pollution

Exide Technologies must come up with a plan to protect children and pregnant women in the area

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    Residents in an East Los Angeles neighborhood demand public officials take action against Exide after test results released Monday showed elevated lead contamination levels in their neighborhood. Patrick Healy reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. from Vernon Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (Published Tuesday, March 11, 2014)

    A task force has been set up to study closing a battery recycling plant in Vernon that recently tested for elevated levels of lead.

    Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who championed the task force, said state regulatory agencies were not doing enough.

    "Hopefully we can encourage the state to give us the authority necessary to go into some of these areas that threaten neighboring communities,'' Molina said.

    Exide, which recycles up to 41,000 batteries a day, has been cited for lead and arsenic pollution and was temporarily closed in April.

    The South Coast Air Quality Management District imposed stricter emissions guidelines targeting the plant in January.

    John Hogarth, manager of Exide's plant, said the facility has cut arsenic emissions and has spent $20 million on upgrades since 2010.

    "It's hard for anybody to say if that lead belongs to Exide," Hogarth said.

    The news comes as officials from the Department of Toxic Substances Control found elevated levels of lead in soil taken from 39 residential lots near the plant and called for expanded testing.

    While authorities said there did not appear to be an immediate severe risk to adults in the area, they took precautions.

    "We do need the governor to be pushing the (Department of Toxic Substances Control) because it is failing in its job to protect the public from toxic harm, " consumer watchdog Liza Tucker said.

    One school in the area only allows children to play on asphalt.

    "It kind of put me at ease," said parent Ashley Nunez. "But it's still kind of scary."

    The firm at 2700 S. Indiana St. is one of only two lead-acid battery recycling plants west of the Rockies and has been operating since 1922.

    The Department of Public Health will lead the task force. It will report back in 90 days with recommendations on ways to close the Exide plant.

    The group also was asked to identify the communities most at risk from various industrial hazards. The board's vote to establish the task force was unanimous.

    City News Service contributed to this report.

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