Toxics Regulators Ignore Proven Technology to Link Exide Battery Recycler to Lead Contamination at 39 Homes, says Consumer Watchdog Industry Pressure Leaves Enforcement Hands Tied and LA Communities Chronically Exposed to Dangerous Lead Levels
SANTA MONICA, Calif., March 19, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Regulators at the Department of Toxic Substances Control folded under industry pressure and ignored proven particulate sampling technology that could have shown Exide Technologies is the source of lead and arsenic contamination in East LA communities, Consumer Watchdog said today. Without proof of the connection, the DTSC cannot fine Exide or force it to clean up.
The particulate sampling technology, developed by Dr. Thomas Cahill, UC Davis Professor Emeritus of Physics and Atmospheric Sciences, was successfully used by the DTSC to help prosecute a giant metal shredder on Terminal Island called SA Recycling.
The technology can "fingerprint" the source of contamination based on particle size, weather conditions, and types of contaminants present over time. As soon as DTSC started using the technology, industry ramped up pressure to drop it. In Exide's case, DTSC failed to apply this cutting edge technology, according to state sources that contacted Consumer Watchdog.
"By failing to use a cutting edge enforcement tool, the DTSC is protecting polluters at the expense of adults and children who are being chronically exposed to dangerous levels of lead and arsenic," said Consumer Advocate Liza Tucker. "It's time the Governor steps in and ensures the state uses the right tools at its disposal to hold Exide responsible."
The DTSC initiated the SA Recycling case in 2008, and it was successfully settled for nearly $3 million in 2011 thanks to the technology. "The use of this technology and the success of this case threatened industry and that is what ultimately sealed the technology's fate," said Tucker.
For SA Recycling allegations and judgment, see:
In 2009, SA Recycling retained former DTSC Chief Counsel Robert Hoffman to discredit the technology developed by Cahill's DELTA Group consulting firm. Hoffman, who ultimately joined the law firm of Paul Hastings after leaving the DTSC, wrote the DTSC that the DELTA work could not prove that the source of the contamination in the heavily industrial area was SA Recycling's. An industry-funded group, Yorke Engineering, concluded the same thing.
"One of industry's favorite arguments is that you can't prove the contamination belongs to a particular company," said Tucker. "But the thing is, you can." Cahill refuted the allegations, and called the Yorke report "scientifically unsupportable."
For the Hoffman letter, see:
For the Yorke Engineering study, see: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/yorke-letter.pdf
For the Cahill letter, see:
The DTSC valued DELTA's work so highly that SA Recycling was ordered to write out a check for $100,000 to the DELTA Group so it could continue its work as part of the legal settlement, according to the SA Recycling judgment. Cahill is widely recognized for his scientific work on aerosols, and studied toxins in the fumes and debris of the collapsed World Trade Center and air pollution at the Beijing Olympics.
"We can only conclude that the DTSC was pressured by industry to discontinue its relationship with the DELTA Group," said Tucker. "Any alternative technologies that the DTSC pursues will not pinpoint the source of the lead, and that is exactly what corporations like Exide want."
Consumer Watchdog called on the California legislature to ensure that the state's environmental regulators have access to any scientifically proven fingerprinting technology for use in enforcement cases around the state, and to pass legislation applying hazardous waste standards to air emissions that will enable the DTSC to regulate particulates that accumulate on the ground at hazardous waste levels.
For more on Exide, see:
SOURCE Consumer Watchdog