Santa Monica, CA — Governor Brown’s announcement today that the state will spend $176.6 million to clean up a wide swath of East Los Angeles in the wake of Exide Technologies’ decades-long lead contamination is a major victory for the people who live near the shuttered facility, Consumer Watchdog said today.
“Governor Brown declared a state of emergency at Porter Ranch, but East LA never got the same treatment. This cleanup shows that protection from toxic harm is not just for the wealthy, but for everyone. In the Tale of Two Cities – Porter Ranch and East LA – East LA is no longer forgotten. It’s a great start,” said Consumer Advocate Liza Tucker.
Consumer Watchdog began its investigation of Exide and its poisoning of the community with lead and arsenic in 2013 when the group revealed that the facility’s chief regulator, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, had known of Exide’s contamination of surrounding neighborhoods and the LA River for years and done virtually nothing.
In the last two years, Consumer Watchdog highlighted the DTSC’s refusal to levy fines for fresh Exide violations of hazardous waste laws and for denying the public health emergency in communities surrounding Exide. Tucker said that the public outcry and media coverage of the lead battery recycler’s poisoning of a largely low-income Latino community prevented the Governor from turning a blind eye to children playing in hazardous waste levels of lead.
According to the Governor’s Office and the Department of Finance, the money will be used to test homes, parks, and schools in a radius of 1.7 miles from the facility and to remove lead where levels are highest and exposure the greatest. Up to 10,000 properties may be contaminated.
The State said it would “vigorously pursue Exide and other responsible parties” to get the money back, but Tucker said it would be much harder to recoup the costs after the fact. “The state’s lead toxics regulator, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, should by law have required Exide to put up serious money as a condition of operation in the first place,” said Tucker. “It is time to review how much money more than a hundred other hazardous waste companies have put up to cover clean up of their own pollution.”
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