State regulators delay release of Quemetco pollution report


A report by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control revealing the results of soil tests nearby the lead battery recycling firm Quemetco at the City of Industry, Los Angeles, California, has been delayed until March, state regulators said on January 19.

The report had been due to be published in December.

Meanwhile, Quemetco, a subsidiary of RSR Corporation, has put in an application to the Air Quality Management District to increase its throughput by 25%.

The Clean Air Coalition of North Whittier and Avocado Heights, a volunteer group set up to raise awareness and lobby agencies to get testing carried out in the surrounding area, says the Department for Toxic Substances Control is simultaneously processing a renewal of Quemetco’s hazardous waste permit — which does not mention the application to AQMD.

One of the reasons for the delay in the release of the report is the time it took to secure agreements for testing from commercial properties, according to Jose Diaz, project manager at the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

More than 130 residential properties within a quarter mile radius of the Quemetco plant have had samples collected, and these will be tested for lead, arsenic, cadmium and a number of other potentially harmful materials.

When the agency finishes its report it may announce plans to test soil from a wider area.

Since Exide’s recycling plant at Vernon was forced to shut down two years ago, Quemetco has been the only lead battery recycler west of the Rocky Mountains.

“Quemetco is the number one emitter of lead in the South Coast, responsible for 74% of total lead compounds released into our air and water in 2013, according to the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez, coordinator of the Clean Air Coalition.

“It also generates, treats, and disposes of hazardous waste. But only limited tests for the presence of toxins like lead and arsenic in the neighbouring communities have been done —over 20 years ago — and without any subsequent clean up.”