John Cádiz Klemack
Exide Technologies in Vernon was shut down Wednesday by state regulators for leaking toxins through corroded pipes into the soil. The plant recycles 22 million automotive batteries annually. John Cádiz Klemack reports from Vernon for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on April 24, 2013.
A battery recycling facility in Vernon that is accused of leaking toxins into the soil was shut down by state officials on Wednesday.
The order to suspend operations from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control follows reports from air regulators that the Exide facility failed to control airborne pollution as well.
Exide Technologies, which had been working on a temporary permit status since 1981, was ordered to cease operations at its site at 2700 South Indiana Street on Wednesday.
The company recycles more than 22 million automobile batteries per year, reusing the lead in the batteries, according to DTSC.
The company has been continuously releasing hazardous waste into the soil through rotting underground pipes, cracked with leaks and littered with debris, DTSC officials said. The pipes that date back to the 1920s.
"Protection of the community's health and the environment are paramount," said DTSC Director Debbie Raphael in a statement. "This order stops releases and exposures that are completely unacceptable."
NBC4 attempted to get comment from Exide itself, but a security guard inside said plant managers were in meetings all day.
Exide's corporate office sent only the following statement: "Exide does not comment on administrative or legal actions."
Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents areas of the city near Vernon, applauded the DTSC's action.
"Initially they were cited for excess lead, then arsenic, now we see there's possibly metals in the ground," Huizar said. "Where does it stop?"
The South Coast Air Quality Management District said some 110,000 residents are at a higher risk of cancer because of arsenic levels into the air by Exide. The areas most affected are Vernon, Maywood, Huntington Park, Commerce and Boyle Heights.
Exide must come up with a plan to reduce its emissions before the state says it can continue to operate.
It's not clear what the economic impact of the shutdown will be.
"Hopefully we can find these people some other jobs," Huizar said. "But what they're doing now is putting people's lives on the line and that doesn't have a price to it."