Calif. Gov. Asks for $176M for Plant Cleanup

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – California Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a $176.6 million plan to expedite lead testing and toxic soil cleanup by the closed Exide battery-recycling plant near Los Angeles.
     If approved by the Legislature, the funding would increase soil testing and ongoing cleanup efforts within a 1.7 mile radius near the former Exide facility in Vernon, Calif.
     Brown petitioned the Legislature in a Feb. 17 letter asking lawmakers to approve the funds and speed up safety inspections of the neighborhoods and schools surrounding the old battery-recycling plant.
     “This Exide battery recycling facility has been a problem for a very long time,” Brown said in a statement. “With this funding plan, we’re opening a new chapter that will help protect the community and hold Exide responsible.”
     Under the plan, Exide would be responsible for paying back money needed to test 10,000 properties for lead poisoning in neighborhoods such as Maywood, Commerce and Huntington Park.
     The California Department of Toxic Substances Control denied Exide’s application for a new permit in 2014 and helped force the closure of the plant in Vernon, about five miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
     In a deal with federal prosecutors, Exide admitted it mishandled hazardous waste and agreed to perform a $50 million cleanup.
     Testing done by the department found lead dust scattered across southeast Los Angeles County. In August 2015, the state dedicated $7 million in emergency funding to conduct more lead testing.
     The state says it has already removed more than 10,000 tons of contaminated soil near the 15-acre recycling facility.
     Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, applauded Brown’s announcement and said the department will ensure Exide pays back the $176.6 million loan. She also introduced a new bill that would create a lead acid battery-recycling program, with a portion of the funds going toward the cleanup effort.
     Assembly Speaker-elect Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, said the proposal is a result of the Legislature and Brown’s “devotion to restoring justice to East and Southeast Los Angeles residents victimized by the illegal behavior of Exide management.”
     “While some of the toxic damage has already taken a toll on our communities, this funding will go a long way to restoring the safety and quality of life for the residents we represent,” Rendon said in a statement.

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