Pollution in Vernon

The Exide facility in Vernon has a long history of air pollution irregularities that have put at risk the lives of tens of thousands of local residents. At this point in the sad story, it should be shut down once and for all.

The manufacturing facility recycles close to 22 million batteries a year, employing roughly 60 workers. The company filed for bankruptcy, in part due to the pressure to shutdown the plant that, according to the company, is the result of local political wrangling.

In reality, the facility has always had problems. So much so, that it has operated under an “interim status” without a permit for more than 30 years.

In March, the agency responsible for air quality in Southern California reported such a high level of toxic emissions that raised cancer risks for 110,000 people in the surrounding communities of Boyle Heights, Maywood and Bell.

The facility was temporarily shut down in April by the California Department of Toxic Substance Control but, in June, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin ruled that the plant could reopen citing irreparable harm to the company.

How unfortunate that the judge is more concerned with the company’s solvency than the lives of residents, the growing number of cases of child asthma, and workers’ exposure to toxic chemicals as reported by the Air Quality Management District (AQMD).

Even more distressing is that state regulators are close to cutting a deal with Exide that would permit the company to continue operating.

As a polluter of air and water, the plant’s past history can’t be worse. Repeated fines and its fragile situation of operating without a permit hasn’t made any difference, as the plant is considered by the AQMD to be the worst — in terms of cancer risk— of any of the 450 facilities that it has regulated over the past 25 years.

This facility’s story is one of bad regulation that has put the public at risk. It is time to be less tolerant with polluters. Three decades is enough. Ii is time to shut it down.