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South L.A. Residents Want To Shut Down Battery Plant Over Health Concerns

Sunrise over Vernon, where the Exide plant is located. Photo by Britta Gustafson via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr.
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Residents and local activists attending a forum at Cal State Los Angeles yesterday urged the complete shutdown of a Vernon battery recycling plant over health concerns.

The hearing was created by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) to give residents a chance to express their reasons for wanting to shut down the Exide battery recycling plant, which is among the largest of its kind in the country, KPCC reports. They have complained that the levels of arsenic and other chemicals entering the air from the plant are causing numerous health problems, including cancer.

Besides local residents, members of the community that showed up to the hearing included local politicians and Exide employees.

"I'm a mother, asking you, please, do something,"said local resident Sandra Martinez. "I go days without sleeping, worrying about my child dying in his sleep from asthma."

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But representatives for Exide have been pleading their case for remaining open, claiming that the levels of toxicity around the plant have significantly dropped to acceptable levels, KPCC reports. The company's legal team has also claimed that the AQMD has no authority to shut them down.

"I ask that the board actually looks at facts when they make the ruling," said Exide plant worker Juan Felix.

The plant has been in trouble before, having been cited several times in recent years over excessive amounts of lead being pushed into the air. This past April, an assessment found that the plant was leaking an unacceptable amount of arsenic to numerous South L.A. communities, the L.A. Times reports.

The next meeting will be on January 7 at AQMD's location in Diamond Bar.