Councilmember Huizar issued legislation via a motion Friday calling on the Director of the State of California’s Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) to come before Huizar’s City Planning Committee to explain the agency’s incredibly slow response to the largest toxic cleanup in state history related to violations by Exide Technologies in Vernon. Exide, a battery recycling center, which polluted Boyle Heights and surrounding communities with lead and other contaminants for decades, was allowed by the DTSC to operate without a full permit for more than 30 years.
As part of the cleanup, only 270 parcels of the initial 2,500 most contaminated sites identified by the DTSC have been cleaned to date. The DTSC has never had a permanent contractor in place, nor is it clear when one will be approved to do the cleanups. In fact, DTSC has only recently entered into an interim contract with a cleanup contractor to do only 215 parcels. At the rate projected by this interim contract, it will take five more years to clean just the initial 2,500 parcels. There are 5,000 more sites with significant contamination, as well as parkways, that the state has not yet provided any funding or timeline to clean up.
Meanwhile, residents of Boyle Heights and the communities surrounding the Exide facility must live and work in areas contaminated by toxic waste.
Huizar’s motion also calls on City Departments, including the City Attorney, to report back on on any and all options available to the City of Los Angeles to compel DTSC or Exide to perform the necessary cleanups on a much faster timeline with a sense of urgency that this contamination demands.
“I am outraged and our state should be outraged by the ineptitude and lack of urgency under the most urgent circumstances possible,” said Councilmember Huizar. “I have little faith that an agency that failed to do its job and duty on behalf of the residents of Los Angeles’ east and southeast communities to properly regulate Exide, would then be able to lead the largest contamination cleanup in state history. The state has done an extremely poor job of keeping track of this issue in what is an environmental justice affront of epic proportions to the mostly Latino, immigrant and low-income residents of our affected communities, including Boyle Heights. The City of Los Angeles deserves answers about immediate remedies and funding plans for all the cleanups, including the 5,000 sites and parkways that currently have no funding or cleanup plan. These plans need to be in place now – not years or decades from now. The health and welfare of our families and children depend on it.”
In 2016, Councilmember Huizar joined with Resurrection Church and Boyle Heights’ residents to call out the disparity between the lack of response to lead exposure from Exide in the low-income communities of Boyle Heights, East L.A. and the surrounding communities, compared to the quick response to Porter Ranch residents, a more affluent community, and their concerns over the Aliso Canyon gas leak.
Days after the action by Resurrection Church and Councilmember Huizar, Governor Brown announced $176.6 million offered by the state with the DTSC overseeing cleanups.
That money is still not enough to do all the needed cleanups, and the DTSC still has not hired a permanent contractor to do the work it says it intends to do.