Home » Featured, Health » Battery recycling plant exposes Boyle Heights residents to dangerous emissions
Photo by Flicker user smax/ Creative Commons

Photo by Flicker user smax/ Creative Commons

A battery recycling plant bordering Boyle Heights has been ordered to lower its cancer-causing emissions posing a danger to more than 110,000 southeast Los Angeles area residents.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District directed the Vernon facility, Exide Technologies, to provide a “risk reduction plan” after recent assessments showed a high cancer risk affecting a significant number of residents in Boyle Heights, Vernon, Maywood, Huntington Park, Commerce and some areas of East L.A.

The battery recycling giant provided the report in compliance to Assembly Bill 2588, the so-called Toxic Hot Spots program, which requires companies that emit toxic air pollutants to assess possible health risks and regularly provide reports of their findings.

Exide showed a higher cancer risk affecting a greater number of residents due to the high arsenic emissions than the more than 450 AQMD regulated facilities in Southern California, reported the Los Angeles Times.

In a March 1 letter to Exide, the AQMD indicates that the facility poses a maximum individual cancer risk of 156 people in one million after long-term exposure (primarily from arsenic) for workers at or near the facility.

“We strongly encourage that the plan submittal and any risk reduction steps be expedited given the high risk levels associated with your facility,” stated AQMD.

District officials gave Exide 180 days to submit the plan, which must be completed in three years.

AQMD regulations require facilities to provide annual public notification whenever the level exceeds 10 per million people, and when it reaches 25 cases per million people, the company must take steps to reduce those emissions.

The risks to Boyle Heights residents reached 22 cases per million.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar, whose 14th district includes Boyle Heights, released a statement saying he was outraged by the findings.

“As the Councilmember representing Boyle Heights and as a father who is raising his four children there, I join all Boyle Heights residents and the surrounding affected communities in demanding that these unacceptable exposure levels be addressed immediately by Exide, regardless of the financial costs,” said Huizar.

He also pledges to work with the ACMD to ensure that Exide cleans up their act.

“The AQMD must use all of its authority to protect residents from dangerous emissions, and I intend to work closely with them to control this polluter,” said Huizar.

This is not the first time Exide has had emission control issues addressed by the district, a fact not lost to Union de Vecinos Director and Boyle Heights resident Leonardo Vilchis.

“The efforts that have been made to address problems with Exide in the past have not been successful in the long run,” he said.

Vilchis is referring to Exide’s past health-related issues that includes a 2008 SCAQMD order to cut unacceptable levels of lead emissions.

“It’s unfortunate that people don’t have access to this information,” said Vilchis, adding that one of the problems most residents don’t realize is that Exide is not the only company fouling the air.

“What about the cumaltive impact from other companies operating around us? We’re not just breathing-in Exide air,” said Vilchis.

As required by AQMD, Exide announced it will hold public meetings in May to explain the hazards affecting thousands of residents.

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6 Responses to “Battery recycling plant exposes Boyle Heights residents to dangerous emissions”

  1. Teresa Marquez March 29, 2013

    Lets give credit to were it belongs, the Resurrection NW and it community hae been working on the danger of pollution level in Boyle Heights for some years, the Resurrection NW and Father Moretta should be acknowledge of the consistent work with AQMD and their tireless fight for the safety of our community. The Resurrection NW have join several other groups outside Boyle Heights in this tremendous war against City of Vernon and several corporatins polluting our air, causing serious health issues in our community. Vecinos Unidos, as far as I have I can remember, have never join our fight, or even attended meeting strickly on this issues, but I hope that not just talk, they really get involved even after Resurrection Nw has been at the very front of the war against dangerous pollution. It would have been evident if Vecinos Unitdos would have been at any meetings because they are so unrule, rude, and Leonardo well known for screaming and yelling disrupting the meetings, and taking away the seriousness of the issue in hand. And their unrule method of attending meetings, take away the right of the community in voicing their concerns, because vecinos unidos drown the real concerns of the community as a whole. Leonard thank you so very much for disrupting the Metro meeting in December, 2012 allowing metro to proceed with their plan and not the community. Ihope that in the future you and Elizabeth show more respect to the community residents and allow us to participate in the meetings without interruption and unrule behavior that you are well known for. Work with the community not against them, and help Metro make excusses why they can not hear the real issues because your unprofessinal behavior. RESPECT and Civility should be part of your movement, as to not to kae my rights and the rest of the community. You ask us to join your movement, why don’t you join the rest of the community to voice the issues without and respect the needs of the community as a whole. We all live here, but I believe this disruption was done on purpose to drawn the rets of the community out of the meeting, I hope you heard the decision of the Metrol yesterday, and you were not there like the rest of the real community.

    • Robert Cabrales March 30, 2013

      This company has been spewing lead into the air way beyond their allowable levels for years and the AQMD continues to give us pony show Bull **** meetings informing the community about the fines (slaps on the wrists) that Exide gets. It’s Ok to disagree with another community member’s approach in voicing concerns and holding those responsible accountable for the harm that is being done or for not doing their job. There are ways to do address these community leaders without attacking them personally in a blog that is meant to inform the public about the harms that are being done on a regular basis. This only leads to continual divisions in the community and is counter productive. I think Mr. Vilchis does a respectable job at building power in the community against injustices, weather we agree or disagree with their style. With all due-respect, lets build a better Community, not a divided community. Father John, also does a great job at getting parishioners involved. However, the issue is not about who gets the credit for doing what. It’s about holding Exide accountable for the harm that they do to our health. Lets work together to make sure that AQMD is doing their JOB to protect our health, because we are breathing the same air. Have a blessed day. :)

    • Teresa Marquez September 13, 2013

      correction: The notices mailed to 110,000 addresses of residents, businesses, and schools within the danger zones of high levels of arsenic and lead, Please note, it is not 110,000 people, is 110,000 addresses, equal to about 550,000 people or more. Finally, Jessica GArrison, from LATIMES News caught the error, and is attempting to get the correct number of people affected by the dangerous pollutions of toxic chemicals to Latino communities.

      Exide plant will pay for blood tests for residents…LA County health agency offers residents of areas near Vernon battery recycler free checks for lead contamination.


  2. Thanks for sharing this information. Any chemical or gaseous materials emitted to the air is not good for our health much more if these emissions is proven to cause cancer. I hope there are actions from the goverment or whoever that has the right to check for these factories will make an action with this problem.

    • September 18, 2013, AQMD Meeting at Pueblo Plaza del Sol, at Plaza del Sol regarding regulations for EXIDE
      Please note, the required notices to areas of high risk were mailed to 110,000 residences and businesses, equal to approximately 550,000 residents

  3. Hello All,

    My name is Justin Drazin and I work for a company called Delos Living in New York City. We are doing a project in Boyle Heights with Will.I.Am and would love to speak with Leonardo Vilchis if anyone has a contact number or email where we could reach him. Thank you so much.