January 14, 2021: The California Department of Toxic Substances Control on December 14 filed a sweeping court action against major battery firms for the cost of the clean-up of the former Exide Technologies lead battery recycling site at Vernon.
Clarios, Trojan Battery and Quemetco are among the defendants listed in the writ filed in the Central District of California district court, which claims reimbursement for the DTSC’s costs in investigating and cleaning up the costs involved in the contamination.
It also calls on the defendants to complete the remaining work, most of which, it says, has been left ‘unremediated’.
In May last year, Exide’s North American side of the business entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the third and final time, and the ensuing bankruptcy ruling effectively allowed Exide to walk away from any responsibility to close and clean the site.
In July Atlas Holdings bought the North American business and set up two standalone companies — Stryten Manufacturing and Element Resources — to make and recycle lead batteries.
Exide CEO Tim Vargo was appointed CEO of the new Stryten alongside Mike Judd, former president and COO of Exide.
Element Resources was set up to own and operate recycling plants in Canon Hollow, Missouri and Muncie.
A Stipulation and Order in 2014 had required Exide to provide financial assurance for its post-closure plan and undertake ‘extensive onsite corrective action’, as well as provide interim measures for residential off-site action.
“Exide filed a bankruptcy petition on May 19, 2020, and the implementation of these measures, and of the off-site corrective action, has not been completed,” the court document says.
The writ says that Exide transferred the title of the Vernon Plant to the Exide Vernon Environmental Response Trust on October 26, 2020, which was required to continue implementing closure activities and corrective action — “but the trustee has insufficient resources to complete these actions”.
Other parties named on the document as responsible for contamination as previous owners in some way are NL Industries, Gould Electronics and JX Nippon Mining and Metals.
Kinsbursky Brothers, Ramcar Batteries, International Metals Ekco and Blount, or their corporate predecessors, are named along with Clarios, Trojan and Quemetco as transporting ‘the majority of the hazardous substances that were disposed of or treated at the Vernon facility in the last approximately years of the facility’s operation’.
“Clarios is aware of the action filed by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. At this time, we cannot provide further comment on this pending litigation,” said Kari Pfisterer, Clarios director of external communications.
“These parties share the responsibility for the contamination plaguing the thousands of people and families who live and work in the shadow of this site,” said DTSC director Meredith Williams.