Meredith Williams, Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2020
DTSC Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Determination Tied to Exide Bankruptcy
SACRAMENTO – The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) today announced that it has issued a determination that conditions at Exide’s Vernon facility may present an “imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health or welfare or to the environment.”
The timing of this determination is in response to Exide’s request in its chapter 11 bankruptcy case to abandon the Vernon Facility. The United States Department of Justice and United States Environmental Protection Agency have stated that they will not oppose abandonment of the Vernon facility. A federal Bankruptcy Court in Delaware will rule on Exide’s chapter 11 bankruptcy plan this week. The action taken by DTSC today will protect workers and other people from risks posed by the former Exide battery-recycling facility in Vernon if the court authorizes abandonment.
Governor Gavin Newsom said, “For decades, Exide brazenly released lead dust and other toxic substances into the air around its facility, poisoning schools, backyards, and playgrounds in L.A. and is now using bankruptcy for the third time to evade responsibility. In a 2015 deal with the U.S. Department of Justice, it was able to avoid prosecution for its crimes by agreeing to complete the cleanup. I am outraged that the federal government now appears set on allowing Exide to walk away from its responsibility while Californians are left behind, further jeopardizing the health of the many families in the communities surrounding the Exide site. This is simply unacceptable.”
“We have a limited window of opportunity to prevent this abandonment from moving forward in court, so time is of the essence. California leaders are unified to fight this injustice and stand ready to take any and all possible actions that will result in justice for these communities,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Secretary for the California Environmental Protection Agency.”
Dr. Meredith Williams, Director of DTSC said, “DTSC will continue to work alongside these communities to address the toxic chemicals left by Exide’s operations. While we’ve been fighting the bankruptcy, we remain focused on our work on the residential cleanup. We are making significant progress, having completed cleanup of over 2,000 properties. Today’s determination is a proactive step to ensure that we can protect these communities against further releases from this facility, should it be abandoned.”
DTSC issued this determination in light of facility site conditions and in response to Exide’s most recent bankruptcy filing, in which Exide proposes to abandon the property. Currently, multiple temporary protective structures have been installed at the site to prevent release of contaminated water and dust containing extremely high levels of lead and other metals. Those protective structures require daily maintenance. DTSC is concerned that if a court allows Exide to abandon the site, no one would be responsible for maintaining these safety controls and people on-site and off-site could be placed at risk.
In 2015, following pressure from regulators and the community and to avoid criminal indictment, Exide entered into a Non-prosecution Agreement with U.S. Department of Justice and committed to permanently close the facility and commence cleanup of the site and surrounding communities.
This determination is an update and expansion to an earlier imminent and substantial endangerment determination DTSC issued in 2015 for the residential area around the facility. This updated determination includes Exide’s former facility and does not change DTSC’s 2015 determination’s in residential areas. No funds from the residential cleanup will be diverted to overseeing the safe closure of the facility. DTSC required Exide to provide $26.4 million in financial assurance funds, which DTSC will use to ensure continuation of the work of safely closing the facility and protecting the people who live and work nearby.
In response to significant public outcry over Exide’s proposal to abandon the Vernon site, the US DOJ and US EPA have agreed to hold a virtual public meeting. The meeting will be held on Tuesday October 13, from 4:00 to 7:00 pm (Pacific) to allow the community to be heard by the Justice Department. On Tuesday before the meeting, a Fact Sheet regarding the bankruptcy proceedings will be available at https://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decree/re-exide-holdings-inc-0.
For more information about how to call in and comment during the meeting, please visit www.dtsc.ca.gov/exide-bankruptcy/.
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FOR GENERAL INQUIRIES: Contact the Department of Toxic Substances Control by phone at (800) 728-6942 or visit www.dtsc.ca.gov. To report illegal handling, discharge, or disposal of hazardous waste, call the Waste Alert Hotline at (800) 698-6942.
The mission of DTSC is to protect California’s people and environment from harmful effects of toxic substances by restoring contaminated properties, enforcing hazardous waste law, reducing hazardous waste generation, and encouraging the manufacture of chemically safer products.