Quemetco, a lead-acid battery recycling plant in the City of Industry, agrees to pay $600,000 in penalties for various air pollution violations, officials announced on Friday.
One of the violations found at the plant was the emission of lead, arsenic, and 1,3-butadiene, which were being emitted into the air at levels that exceeded air quality rule limits, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which agreed to the settlement April 30.
Lead exposure limits brain development and can cause kidney disease. Human exposure to lead, arsenic and 1,3-butadiene also can cause cancer.
Inspections and testing at the plant, which took place between 2017 and 2019, also revealed a failure to minimize dust emissions, violations of reporting requirements, and not maintaining negative pressure in the building enclosure, air quality officials said.
Quemetco which on 720 South 7th Avenue, crushes 600 tons of used lead-acid batteries per day, producing recycled lead for use in new products. Batteries have been recycled at the plant since 1959.
During the past decade, the plant has been the subject of public scrutiny and legal battles.
Dan Kramer, a spokesman for Quemetco, said the plant continues to operate in compliance with all applicable rules set by the air quality district.
Filed in October 2018, the suit relies on numerous reports of leaks, cracks in waste storage areas and corrosion in waste containers observed by state Department of Toxic Substance Control inspectors.
“DTSC’s allegations are without merit and the litigation to date has reinforced that position,” Kramer said.
At the meeting, officials laid out the ongoing history of lead contamination in and around Quemetco’s 13-acre parcel.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in February 2019 unanimously passed a motion in solidarity with residents who live near the plant, opposing the expansion.
During that 2019 meeting, Supervisor Hilda Solis said her father had worked at Quemetco for 20 years and eventually died of a heart attack and stroke. Solis said he had been exposed to lead at the plant.
“Little did we know at the time how harmful his job was,” said Solis, who grew up in La Puente. She said the expansion would adversely affect too many low-income people of color.
Longtime residents who live near Quemetco at the 2019 meeting also spoke of family members dying or various forms of breast cancer and a rare form of cancer.
SCAQMD is still reviewing Quemetco’s application to expand its operations, said Bradley Whitaker, spokesman for the air quality district. Quemetco submitted its draft of an environmental impact report in December.