A bankruptcy court ruled Friday that Exide Technologies may abandon its shuttered battery recycling plant in Vernon, leaving a massive cleanup of lead and other toxic pollutants at the site and in surrounding neighborhoods to California taxpayers.
The decision by Chief Judge Christopher Sontchi of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Delaware, made over the objections of California officials and community members, marks the latest chapter in a decades-long history of government failures to protect the public from brain-damaging lead, cancer-causing arsenic and other pollutants from the facility.
The plan’s confirmation only deepens a fiasco that has subjected working-class Latino communities across southeast Los Angeles County to chronic and dangerous levels of soil contamination and made the area a symbol of environmental injustice.
Community groups have fought for years with the company and its environmental regulators to restrict harmful pollution, shut down illegal operations and clean up the toxic mess. The property’s abandonment compounds the challenges of addressing ongoing health risks to young children and others living nearby, where thousands of yards remain riddled with lead, a powerful neurotoxin with no safe level of exposure.
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