Valeria Reyes, Section Editor

It’s been five years since battery recycling facility Exide shut down in Vernon after community protests against its toxic risks on communities. For thirty years, this site had been polluting the cities of South East Los Angeles with poisonous chemicals like lead and arsenic. This contamination poses negative health effects on community residents due to the pollution in the soil and air. This empty facility can still contaminate nearby areas, but constant measures have been put in place by Exide Industries to try and control further pollution. However, more action is needed to ensure the safety of communities in SELA. Exide Industries require a hundred million dollar plan to clean the infected areas. Earlier this year, Exide filed for bankruptcy leaving them free of liability for their contamination. Exide can also vacate the still dangerous site without paying damages or cleaning up the poisoned cities. 

On October 16th, the Department of Justice accepted Exide’s bankruptcy claim despite the thousands of emails and calls against Exide’s site abandonment during the public hearing a few days prior. This would leave the state of California and taxpayers responsible for paying the expensive clean up in primarily low-income communities of color. This would also make the Department of Toxic Substance Control in charge of the Exide facility cleanup that had previously been maintained by Exide Industries. Community residents of these impacted communities remained outraged at the DOJ and disappointed in the new role the DTSC has for facility maintenance, considering their failure in preventing and addressing the toxic chemical waste throughout the years. Governor Newsom plans to appeal the DOJ’s ruling, and organizations like Communities for a Better Environment plan to take action against this act of environmental racism.

The former Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon, seen through a chain-link fence
Portions of the former Exide lead-acid battery recycling plant in Vernon are now wrapped in scaffolding and white plastic sheeting.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

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