August 1, 2019: Exide Technologies has refuted accusations in a July 19 letter from California’s DTSC, which threatens to fine the company hundreds of thousands of dollars for violations that Exide says are ‘demonstrably false and will be proven to be so’.
- DTSC has ignored the scientific findings/basis of Exide’s report.
- DTSC has failed to respond to Exide in a timely manner.
- DTSC response is riddled with incorrect and misleading statements.
The DTSC (Department of Toxic Substances Control) letter contains a review of Exide’s 250-page draft Residential Facility Investigation report, which was filed in time to meet an October 24, 2018 deadline to address lead contamination issues around the closed Vernon lead battery recycling plant.
It is the DTSC’s first review of the RFI, coming some nine months after Exide’s submission, despite repeated attempts by the firm to get a response to its findings and despite a pledge by the DTSC in a November 21 letter saying it was “working diligently to complete its review of the Draft Report and respond”.
Yet without any dialogue in the interim, the DTSC has treated the draft RFI as its basis for threatening to fine Exide a further $240,000 for ‘24 violations’ and $70,000 a day for violations of the Hazardous Waste Control Law.
It also notifies Exide that it will terminate a non-prosecution agreement made in 2014, claiming Exide “is failing to investigate the full extent of its contamination from its former facility in Vernon”.
“The women, children and other people who live around Exide’s now-shuttered facility have suffered for too long,” the letter says. “Federal and state governments must work together to end Exide’s holiday from criminal liability. The time has come for action and accountability.”
Exide immediately hit back, issuing a statement saying: “DTSC’s accusations are demonstrably false and will be proven to be so.”
“Throughout 2018 and 2019, Exide has proactively solicited feedback from DTSC, giving them many months to critique our approach and analysis. The DTSC did not respond. Rather, months late and well after the completion of the reports, instead of evaluating the science, DTSC has chosen to issue an inaccurate response, riddled with incorrect and misleading statements to the public.”
Exide says it has fully complied with all the orders that have been issued in the past, and in its RFI report provides scientific sources which evidence its claims that lead found in soil in some residential areas is from other sources, such as lead paint, leaded gasoline and aviation fuel.
In some samples of soil taken from further away from the Vernon plant, lead concentrations are in fact higher than they are in properties adjacent to the site, the findings revealed.
Citing hundreds of sources and scientific data, Exide’s 250-page report concludes:
“The conclusion of the RFI Report is that the impacts which are attributable to the Vernon Facility do not extend into the residential areas of the RIA (Residential Investigation Area). The extent of each COPC (Constituent of Potential Concern) is well delineated and limited to the industrial area within approximately 0.5 miles of the Vernon Facility…
“No residential properties have been identified within the extent of COPC impacts potentially attributable to Exide. Impacts in the residential area are most likely associated with roadway, vehicular and lead-based paint sources.
“For this reason, there are no corrective measures required to address the CACO (Corrective Action Consent Order) and 2014 requirements for the residential area and therefore the residential RFI process is complete, with no CMS (Corrective Measures Study) or subsequent residential corrective actions or reports required.”
In its rebuttal to the letter, Exide said: “Exide’s report — supported by sound and widely accepted scientific methods as well as data from governmental agencies — demonstrated that the company’s efforts not only meet but exceed obligations.”
BESB contacted the DTSC, which said it would answer our specific queries in due course, but in the meantime information officer Barbara Zumwalt said: “The Exide project is one of DTSC’s highest priorities, protecting the health and safety of people in the community, especially the youngest and most vulnerable.”
Hywel Jarman, director of communications at the International Lead Association, said: “Industry will always strive to work openly and constructively with regulators and it’s in everyone’s interests that these processes are open and transparent. Any investigatory or regulatory actions must follow due process and be fair, as should industry’s response.
“Where disputes or disagreements arise over data or procedure, some form of arbitration would be appropriate to allow for any necessary checks and further assessments to take place.”