DTSC says that among the most serious violations observed by inspectors was the treatment of contaminated sludge in tanks that Exide is not authorized to operate at its Vernon facility. Inspectors also found evidence the company failed to sufficiently protect against spills in an area where it stores materials, including battery acid.
DTSC’s violations are described in a Summary of Violations, which was issued to Exide on January 28. The violation findings are the result of the inspections held in January, as well as oversight activities on Dec. 12, 2014.
The two-day evaluation of Exide’s operations is part of DTSC’s oversight of the Exide facility and its review of the company’s application for a hazardous waste permit. DTSC has directed Exide to protect public health by immediately stopping all violations.
Within 10 days, the company also is required to submit documentation that the violations have ceased. Exide Technologies faces potential penalties and the possibility of additional enforcement actions for these violations, and will face increased penalties if it fails to fully comply.
“These violations represent our commitment to the community that we will keep a close watch on Exide and ensure that the facility is in compliance with all pertinent laws,” says DTSC Deputy Director Elise Rothschild. “The company must correct these violations, and we will consider them, along with Exide’s full enforcement history, when we make our permit decision.”
In addition to the use of the unauthorized tanks and failure to sufficiently protect against spills, other alleged violations include:
- improperly labeling and not closing containers holding hazardous waste;
- lack of an adequate secondary-containment system and engineer’s certification for temporary tanks used to store waste; and
- placing hazardous waste with liquids in a containment building without a functioning leak detection and collection system.
The DTSC also notified Exide that it must take steps to ensure that rain cannot enter the building, after DTSC inspectors noted holes in the walls and ceiling of the building. DTSC ordered Exide to submit plans to permanently fix the holes.
When fully operational, Exide’s Vernon facility will be able to recycle about 22 million batteries (about 100,000 to 120,000 tons of lead) per year. However, the company’s smelting operation has been closed since March 2014 because it could not meet new rules by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Exide has been operating the plant since 1992.
Exide is currently operating under an interim authorization from DTSC and has applied to DTSC for a full hazardous waste facility permit for storage and treatment of hazardous waste.
DTSC will make a decision on that permit application by Dec. 31, 2015, as required by Senate Bill 712.