Exide claims some contamination around Vernon site was not its fault

Exide Technologies has responded to complaints about a delay in the clean-up of contaminated land surrounding its former lead battery recycling plant in Vernon, California with claims that the primary source of lead in some areas was not its plant.

In a statement to BESB on May 8, the company also criticized the Department for Toxic Substances Control for not releasing the results of its soil sampling around the Vernon site ‘for months’ until Exide served it with a California Public Records Act request for the information.

“Exide believes that rigorous scientific analysis of all available data, including the recently produced data, is appropriate for identifying or excluding potential sources of residential soil contamination.

“Exide is still evaluating the information posted on the DTSC’s website, but our preliminary review confirms our belief that the level of lead in the soil at the majority of properties has a much greater correlation to the age of houses and their proximity to major roadways than their proximity to the former facility,” an official with Exide said.

“While fully committed to working with the state and the DTSC on a continued review of the issue, we stand by our position that other historical sources need to be examined as significant contributing, if not the primary, sources for elevated lead levels in and around the south-east Los Angeles area.”

While Exide has already paid for the initial clean-up, which covered 200 properties closest to the old facility, the DTSC told BESB it would continue to pursue the lead battery giant for the costs of investigation and clean-up while sampling and cleaning affected properties continues.

“DTSC is committed to cleaning up residential properties, schools, parks, day care centers and child care facilities with the highest levels of lead in soil and greatest risk of exposure within roughly 1.7 miles of the facility,” an official said. The National Engineering and Consulting Group had been appointed as a new partner in the clean-up process following delays with the former contractor.

“NEC will accelerate its clean-up of lead-contaminated properties in the area surround the facility as DTSC prepares to award a larger clean-up contract for the area,” said the official.

“NEC will clean up 215 properties in the area starting this month.”

Soil sampling data from 8,500 properties in the area has been made public together with data tables and maps to show where the areas of greatest concern are.

In October 2017 the DTSC approved Exide’s closure implementation plan, which included blood lead testing in the area.

But a later article in the newspaper Los Angeles Times said residents were dissatisfied with the slow rate of clean-up, which officially began two years ago but hasn’t reached some homes that still have 1,000 ppm of lead in their soil — the safe level is considered to be under 80 ppm.

The number of residents in the contaminated area is in the tens of thousands.

According to the newspaper, the DTSC blames the delays on contractors and environmental requirements.