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Fate Of Vernon Battery Factory Shut Down Over Lead, Arsenic Emissions Subject Of Hearing Thursday

VERNON ( — Public hearings will begin Thursday morning to see if a recycling plant in Vernon should be allowed to re-open after tests showed it may have released dangerous levels of lead and arsenic into the air and groundwater.

The state Department of Toxic Substances last month issued an emergency order against the Exide Technologies plant on 2700 South Indiana Street, citing air and ground pollution violations.

Officials warned the 110,000 residents living in Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park they may have been exposed to dangerous levels of the chemicals, which could pose a relatively high cancer risk.

Many more who drive or work in the area could have been affected as well, according to the report.

KCAL9's Dave Bryan reports the LA City Council this week passed a resolution asking the city attorney to look into a possible lawsuit against the Exide plant, demanding answers as to why it was allowed to operate for years on only a temporary permit.

"We need to know why it was allowed to operate for over 31 years under an interim permit... It is just unacceptable," Councilman Jose Huizar said.

Exide operates in 80 countries and is one of the world's biggest producers, distributors and recyclers of lead-acid batteries.

The facility has been the target of complaints for years, according to elected officials.

Earlier this year, a video released by the Department of Toxic Substances showed a damaged discharge pipeline at the facility reportedly pumping arsenic-filled water directly into the ground. Lead is also a byproduct of the melting process used in recycling car batteries, but the hazardous products are supposed to be safely removed and recycled before they show up in the air and water.

In March, officials with the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) said that Exide Technologies may have exposed local residents to harmful emissions from the battery disposal.

After executives were ordered to shut the facility down, Exide filed a motion for a temporary stay of the suspension order.

In a statement issued at the time, the company said it is committed to working with the community toward promoting a healthy environment.

"Exide welcomes the opportunity to present to the citizens the work that it has undertaken at its Vernon plant to meet required regulatory standards," a spokesperson said.

Thursday morning's hearing is scheduled to take place at the Huntington Park Community Center.

Additional meetings are scheduled next month.

A hearing for Exide's temporary stay of suspension order is set for June 3. A judge is expected to issue a recommendation to the Toxic Substances Control Department at that time.

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