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NoMoPlomo! / No More Lead! — Poster of the Week

Exide Wendy Gutschow for the University of Southern California, Southern CA Environmental Health Sciences Center, in collaboration with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice Digital Print, 2016 Los Angeles, CA


Exide Technologies, the battery recycling plant that poisoned Latino communities in Southeast L.A. for decades, is trying to weasel out of having to clean up the environmental disaster they created. The L.A. Times reported Monday, that the battery company is trying to file for bankruptcy, which will allow them to abandon their responsibilities to pay for the clean-up of the communities they poisoned. It also comes as no surprise that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, under Trump, are not fighting the proposed bankruptcy, thus placing the cleanup cost on taxpayers. Despite this new turn of events, community-based organizations like Communities for a Better Environment and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice are continuing to rally their communities to hold Exide accountable. In 2000, Exide Technologies purchased a battery recycling plant that had operated since 1922 in the city of Vernon. The plant operated around the clock seven days a week, crushing, melting, and processing car and truck batteries to extract the metal lead to create new batteries. In 2013, residents of the low-income Latino communities around the facility learned that the plant had been spewing lead and arsenic emissions into their neighborhoods for decades. They also learned that the state agency responsible for overseeing the plant had never demanded that Exide meet all the safety requirements as a condition for a full permit. Outraged community members and environmental justice groups in East and Southeast L.A. demanded that the plant be shut down and that the soil around their homes be tested. In March 2015, Exide signed an agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office to close the plant permanently in exchange for avoiding prosecution for years of environmental crimes. After testing the soil, state officials found lead contamination as far as 1.7 miles away from the plant, meaning that more than 10,000 homes were affected. Lead has been found to cause learning disabilities and other behavioral problems in children, even at low levels. The arsenic that the plant had emitted into the air also posed an increased cancer risk to as many as 100,000 residents. Community advocates continue to fight for faster action to clean up the contamination, which may take several years and tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. USC’s Community Outreach and Engagement Program developed this poster, and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice created the hashtag #NoMoPlomo to continue raising awareness. Sources: Exide may be allowed to abandon toxic battery recycling plant and massive cleanup bill The Human Toll of LA's Slow Exide Cleanup Vernon Battery Plant May Be Able to Walk Away without Cleaning up Lead Thanks to Settlement with Trump DOJ Lead contamination found in baby teeth of children living near Exide battery plant

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