September 26, 2019: Los Angeles County organized a door-to-door public health activity on September 21, giving out information and offering blood tests to residents around the Quemetco lead battery recycling facility in the City of Industry in California, US.
The authority said the activity was ‘very successful’, and that 200 residents had been tested.
“The issue is still being studied,” said a spokesperson at the authority. “The previously issued risk assessment showed some increase in excess cancer risks to community members secondary to arsenic emissions.
“Additional work needs to be completed, such as soil testing for lead, arsenic and other metals on properties near the facility, to fully characterize risks and how to mitigate them.”
A spokesperson from Quemetco, Dan Kramer, was quoted in local newspaper reports as saying the company had funded the blood testing and supported the outreach activity.
Quemetco did not respond to BESB’s requests for a comment.
In what could well be the biggest outreach effort the LA authority has ever run, more than 100 officials from the Department of Public Health knocked on doors to tell households about safety measures and soil testing, offering free blood tests at a community centre in the Hacienda Heights, where the facility is sited.
They also assessed residents’ awareness of the potential risks posed by the recycling plant.
In February 2019, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors opposed plans by Quemetco to expand its facility, which occupies an area of 13 acres and recycles 10 million used lead batteries a year, producing 120,000 tons of lead.
If the plans had been granted, the site would have operated seven days a week for between 20 and 24 hours a day.
The previous November the DTSC alleged there were 29 violations at the plant and called for wider testing in the area.
“This community lives adjacent to the only operating automobile battery recycling facility on the west coast,” said the LA County spokesperson. “It is paramount that residents are educated fully about 1) potential risks from toxic releases from this facility; 2) current work that is being done to address toxic releases; 3) future work that needs to be completed; and 4) tools and approaches to addressing health concerns.
“This community has endured several decades of potential exposures to toxic emissions. The Department of Public Health, state regulators and the operator must co-ordinate outreach efforts, interventions and policies to best protect the health of the public, which is everybody’s top priority.”
The facility is less than 20 miles away from the Exide Technologies lead battery recycling site at Vernon, which was closed down three years ago after California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control fined it for alleged health and safety violations and pollution.
In August Exide hit back, citing evidence that proved some of the contamination could not have been from the plant but was instead from aviation fuel, paint and other sources.
It is likely that some of the recycling that would have been done at Exide has since gone to Quemetco, the local newspaper reports said.