Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo Joins California Environmental Protection Agency In Calling For Federal Funds To Clean Up Exide

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  • Francisco Quintana
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AD51

LOS ANGELES, CA – Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (AD-51) joined lawmakers and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) today in formally requesting that the former Exide facility in Vernon, and surrounding communities, be added to U.S. EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL). This would provide potentially millions of federal dollars for cleanup and expedite the remainder of the Exide cleanup.

“The absence of proper environmental oversight from the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) on the Exide battery recycling facility in the city of Vernon, California, left devastating effects on our community. Exide operated in our region for decades under little to no supervision, creating a public health hazard in the process” said Assemblywoman Carrillo. “The pollution that resulted poisoned our surroundings, with USC’s 2019 ‘Truth Fairy’ study showing that airborne lead from Exide was found in the baby teeth of children from East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights and Southeast LA. Had this happened in a more affluent community, this environmental disaster would have been caught much earlier and met with swifter action. Instead, Exide was allowed to carelessly contaminate the health, safety and wellbeing of a largely immigrant working class neighborhood. I’m encouraged that CalEPA is actively seeking justice for our community."

The state legislature has allocated $700 million for the facility and residential cleanup, and has remediated nearly 4,000 properties. DTSC is expected to continue their work on the Exide removal until the fall of 2025, by which 6,000 properties will have been cleaned. Estimates indicate the cost to be at $150 million to complete the facility cleanup; action for which there currently is no funding in place. The industrial properties surrounding the facility have yet to be investigated and their cleanup costs are therefore unknown. The former Exide plant operated for more than 100 years as a lead acid battery recycling facility, but went bankrupt in 2020 and the full extent of the contamination it caused was never investigated. 

DTSC’s ability to recover costs associated with cleanup – a promise made to taxpayers – was thwarted when the former federal administration in 2020 allowed Exide to walk away from its facility and cleanup responsibilities. The Biden administration has demonstrated its commitment to protecting communities suffering from environmental injustices, and DTSC is asking for U.S. EPA’s support in managing and funding the work that remains.

Earlier this year, Congress passed President Biden’s Infrastructure Law, which provided $1.5 billion to revitalize brownfields across the United States. President Biden has also proposed $11.8 billion and over 16,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) employee hours in the 2022-23 budget to battle climate change, protect human health, and boost environmental justice initiatives.

DTSC hopes that such a partnership will lead to continued cooperation that will generate full awareness and inspire action on lead contamination in vulnerable communities across the state.

Previously, Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo authored AB 480, a measure that strengthened the ability of local authorities to take immediate action against threats to the public’s health and safety. Specifically, the bill authorized a Unified Program Agency (UPA, or CUPA), in the event of a hazardous waste spill that the CUPA reasonably determines poses an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health, to take actions to protect the health and safety of the public.

View CalEPA’s formal letter to US EPA

Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo was elected as the representative of the 51st Assembly District in December of 2017. She is currently the Chair of Budget Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration, and a member of the Assembly Committees on Appropriations; Budget; Health; Housing and Community Development; and Utilities and Energy. Carrillo represents the people of East Los Angeles, Northeast Los Angeles, and the neighborhoods of El Sereno, Echo Park, Lincoln Heights, Chinatown and parts of Silver Lake.

 

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