Vernon is an industrial city located five miles away from Los Angeles. Local environmental activist organizations have already been protesting against the Exide facility located in Vernon releasing harmful lead pollutants into the city’s air thereby endangering the city residents and employees to lead poisoning. The Environmental Protection Agency of the US (US EPA) has found that the Exide Technologies located in Vernon, California engaged in battery recycling is emitting harmful lead in the environment. Investigations by the US EPA following complaints from the community have found that the lead smelting facility has violated the provisions of Clean Air act in respect of lead emission norms thirty times. The investigation is still continuing. The evidence gathered from monitoring systems installed at the vicinities has revealed that there have been lead emissions exceeding the standard limits set up Federal government in the last three months. The excessive amounts of emissions have also been found on various occasions on September 9, 2013, September 18, 2013, and January 2 and 3, 2014. The Clean Air Act requires that the regions with polluted air should develop a State Implementation Plan (SIP) in order to accomplish and maintain the EPA’s norms for quality of air. The State of California’s SIP as a result prohibits emission of lead into the air in excess of 0.15 μg/m3 (micrograms per meter cubed) over any 30 continuous days. Failure to comply with the stipulation is a violation the SIP and in turn of the Clean Air Act of the Federal Government. Exide that has been given show cause notice for violations can be penalized with more than $ 35,000 for every breach on a daily basis according to the Clean Air Act. The local South Coast Air Quality Management responsible for the enforcement of the rules has taken many legal steps against Exide for the same kind of breaches of Air quality norms in the past just as it has taken the above mentioned action. The lead which is a metal chemical emitted in the air is a serious health risk for youngsters and pregnant females which can impact on their intelligence, reading and learning faculties besides causing hearing impairment, attention span deficit and hyperactivity. It can also result in “coma, convulsions, irreversible mental retardations, seizures and even death” . The recycling process at the Exide Technologies does not take care of controlling potential air emissions or hazardous waste arising thereby. It is dangerous because emissions can transmit particulate matter that includes lead and arsenic. The exposure to lead is harmful to humans and wildlife . The South Coast Air Quality Management District has passed orders in the first week of April 2014 restraining the Exide from resuming smelting without setting its furnaces in compliance with rules concerning arsenic emissions as the prevailing emissions can affect the health of more than 100,000 local residents. If the Exide complies with the order, the particles arising out of the smelting process can be absorbed into the pollution control instruments without being let out into the environment.
The timeline reveals a long history’s Exide Technologies’ persistent violation of environmental laws. On Dec 18, 1981, the lead recycling plant of Exide’s previous owner Gould Inc opened at Vernon was issued with “interim status document” by the California health authorities. In 1999, officials found lead levels of 40 percent in the sediment at the storm water retention pond and asked the company to clean up. The company had purposely set up perforated lines so that the lead particulates could leak into the soil. Exide purchased the plant in October 2000. In July 2003, Exide was fined $ 40,000 for improper storage of batteries with lead-acid but the company delayed payment due to its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. In 2004 and 2008, Exide was asked to clean the lead contaminated drainage channel and public areas, streets and neighboring roofs on an emergency basis. Exide was again fined $ 3,000 in March 2004 for air quality violations. The company was again fined $ 25,000 in August 2006 for failure to contain the hazardous releases. Thus, it has been a never ending story of surface pollution, water pollution and air pollution. In 2012, Air Quality regulators fined Exide $ 112000 for air quality violations.
89.3KPCC. (2014). Timeline: Exide's run-ins with regulators. Retrieved July 5, 2014, from 89.3 KPCC Southern California Public Radio: http://projects.scpr.org/static/timelines/exide-shutdown-timeline/
EPA. (2014, May 22). U.S. EPA finds Exide Technologies a soure of harmful lead emissions . Retrieved July 22, 2014, from United Sattes Environmental Protection Agency : http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/09787ada8e279d8b85257ce0006217ce!OpenDocument
Garrison, J. (2014, April 8). Vernon battery recycler denied permission to resume lead smelting . Los Angeles Times .
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Wong, J. (2014, April 22). Environmental groups call for Exide Technologies to shut down. Retrieved July 5, 2014, from ARN Annenberg Radio News : http://www.annenbergradio.org/segments/2014/04/earth-day