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SANTA MONICA, CA –Exide Technologies has won a temporary reprieve that prevents the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) from enforcing its shutdown of the company’s Vernon plant. That means the lead battery recycler can restart its operations, threatening Californians with renewed pollution of their air and water, Consumer Watchdog said today.

“This is what happens when regulators get in bed with polluters” said consumer advocate Liza Tucker. “The polluters get polluted too.” In three days of hearings before a Los Angeles administrative law judge in early June, Exide argued, among other things, that the toxics regulator let the facility to pollute for years and so implicitly sanctioned it. Exide said that meant the DTSC didn’t have the grounds to shut the plant down on April 24 on the basis of  “imminent and substantial” endangerment of the public health.

“You can’t fault the DTSC for doing the right thing after so many years of doing the wrong thing,” said Tucker. She said the regulator will have to make that case in a hearing set before the judge on July 2.

Documents obtained by Consumer Watchdog, including studies commissioned by Exide and internal DTSC correspondence show that the DTSC knew that the lead battery recycler’s operations endangered the public, that lead and arsenic emissions were going into the air and accumulating at hazardous levels on the ground, and were washing away into the surrounding watershed.

The DTSC chose to act on the basis of air emissions and groundwater contamination, rather than on the basis of the accumulation of hazardous waste on the ground. Tucker said that was a tactical mistake. “The DTSC could have acted on the basis of hazardous waste accumulating on the ground and endangering the public health long ago,” said Tucker. “Shutting them down for that would have been a slam dunk."

For more on the DTSC and toxic pollution around the state, see:

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