Air quality regulators have reached an agreement with Exide Technologies that would bar its battery recycling plant in Vernon from resuming operations until it installs new controls on arsenic emissions that pose a health risk to surrounding communities.
The abatement orders will be considered during a public meeting of the independent administrative law panel Wednesday evening at Maywood Academy High School.
The facility has been idle since March, when the company suspended operations because it was unable to comply with tough new air district rules. Those rules require it maintain negative pressure in its furnaces to keep toxic air contaminants from being released into surrounding neighborhoods.
If approved by the hearing board, the orders would require Exide to comply with those rules and take additional measures to prevent lead-contaminated dust from being released during construction and maintenance.
South Coast air quality officials have issued more than 30 violation notices against Exide over the last two years, mostly for emitting too much lead. In May, the company was cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a string of lead emissions violations.
David Pettit, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the deal "a total win for the air district."
"They're getting everything they want in terms of getting the facility to comply with the new, very strict regulations that it has on its books and all the litigation goes away," he said.
But the proposal is unlikely to satisfy community groups and elected officials who have demanded the facility be shut down permanently.
Nancy Feldman, the air district's principal deputy district counsel, said the proposal means Exide has essentially conceded and agreed to go beyond what the regulations require.
The plant processes about 25,000 automotive batteries a day and is one of only two lead acid battery smelters west of the Rocky Mountains. The other, Quemetco Inc., is in the City of Industry.
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