Exide Technologies Files for Bankruptcy and Threatens Californians with Bill
for Cleanup that Top Toxics Regulator Botched, Says Consumer Watchdog
SANTA MONICA, Calif., June 10, 2013
SANTA MONICA, Calif., June 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --Now that lead
battery recycler Exide Technologies has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the
Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has potentially stuck California
taxpayers with the tab for multi-millions in cleanup costs in the city of
Vernon, Consumer Watchdog said today. The DTSC suspended operations at the
plant on April 24 because of imminent danger to the public health.
Exide follows on the heels of Evergreen Oil. That used oil refiner in Newark
filed for bankruptcy earlier this spring. "These companies are now poster
children for fiscal mismanagement at the DTSC," said consumer advocate Liza
"In Exide's case, terrible regulation included the DTSC doing not nearly
enough for years to address dangerous accumulations of lead, arsenic, and
other contaminants on the ground from air emissions," said consumer advocate
Liza Tucker. "But it also includes gross financial mismanagement." Tucker said
that the DTSC is authorized to demand a company show it can cover the cost of
corrective actions the department orders as part of the permitting process,
but the DTSC never did that in Exide's case.
In fact, instead of making Exide fix a storm drain system never meant to carry
dangerous heavy metals that would flow into it during wash-downs of the
property or when it rained, DTSC managers told local DTSC regulators two years
ago to ignore the problem, instead of order Exide to do something about it,
while they wrote a final permit for the plant that never materialized, Tucker
said. The company was ordered to cleanup in 2002, but the DTSC didn't ask them
to put up any money for fixes then either, said Tucker.
Tucker said that air regulators also shared blame. Over the years, DTSC
regulators in southern California told the South Coast Air Quality Management
District that their permitted levels of emissions were nevertheless causing
the accumulation of hazardous waste on the ground. "Air regulators did
nothing," said Tucker. "They figured it wasn't their problem. So, instead,
they made it the DTSC's and now everyone else's."
Hazardous waste companies are also required to show they can cover the cost of
closing a facility and maintaining it safely long-term. Exide put up $10
million. "That will not come close to actually cleaning up all the
contamination at the site," said Tucker. "What's involved is cleaning up lead
all over the neighborhood, digging up soil to deep levels around the plant's
equipment that also needs decontamination, and capping a dangerous slag
landfill that has been leaking lead into the groundwater for decades. Never
mind actually cleaning the groundwater of contaminants."
In Evergreen's case, the DTSC never asked it to show it could cover the
ordered cleanup of contaminated soil and water. The reported $400,000 to cover
the costs of closing the facility that it put up as a condition of its permit
will not be enough to both decontaminate the plant and clean up the
contamination should it eventually go out of business, said Tucker.
"Not only is the DTSC falling down on protecting consumers from toxic harm,"
Tucker wrote, "It is also falling down on protecting them from fiscal harm. It
is time for a full and independent financial audit of DTSC and for them to
provide a complete list of the amount of financial assurance they have
received from companies they regulate both for closure and all corrective
For more on Exide and on the DTSC see:
SOURCE Consumer Watchdog
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