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EPA finds Exide Technologies lead-acid battery recycling plant a source of harmful lead emissions

23 May 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency today notified Exide Technologies of federal violations at its Vernon, Calif. lead-acid battery recycling facility. EPA’s investigation, prompted by community concerns as well as ongoing investigations by state and local agencies, found that Exide violated the Clean Air Act’s lead emissions standards on more than 30 occasions. EPA’s investigation of the facility is ongoing.

EPA’s review of data collected from air quality monitors at locations on or around the facility showed average lead emissions above the federal standard from 22 March through 19 April 2014. In addition, excess emissions were monitored on or about 9 September 2013, 18 September 2013, and 2-3 January 2014.

Federal clean air laws require areas with unhealthy air develop a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to implement, achieve, and maintain EPA’s air quality standards. Under California’s SIP, large lead-acid battery recycling facilities are prohibited from emitting lead into the air that exceeds 0.15µg/m3 (micrograms per meter cubed) over any period of 30 consecutive days. Any violation of the SIP is a violation of the federal Clean Air Act.

Pursuant to today’s Notice of Violation, the facility has ten working days to respond to the violations. The Agency is evaluating its enforcement options against the company. Exide faces a penalty of up to $37,500 per day for each violation based on federal law.

The battery recycling facility has been in operation since 1922. Exide recovers lead from recycled automotive batteries and other lead-bearing scrap materials and recycles 23,000 to 41,000 batteries daily. The City of Vernon is an industrial city of 5.2 square miles located approximately two miles from homes and schools in the neighboring City of Maywood.

The local South Coast Air Quality Management District is the lead agency responsible for enforcing rules and permit conditions to ensure that the facility operates in compliance with air pollution requirements, and has taken several enforcement actions against Exide for similar violations of air quality rules.

Lead is a major environmental health hazard for young children and pregnant women. Exposure to lead can result in lowered intelligence, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, and hyperactivity.

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