LA County engages in massive outreach, blood-test effort for those near City of Industry battery recycling plant – Daily News

on Sep22
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Los Angeles County public health officials engaged in a massive outreach effort Saturday, informing residents about the possible risks posed by the nearby lead-acid battery recycling plant in City of Industry.

More than 100 public health employees blanketed the portion of Hacienda Heights just south of the Quemetco Inc. facility Saturday morning, presenting information about safety measures and soil and blood testing as well as surveying to see how well educated residents were about the possible risks of lead and arsenic released from the facility.

The county Department of Public Health also provided free blood testing to check for unusually high lead levels at a resource fair at the Hacienda Heights Community Center. Other county departments were on hand as well as representatives for local elected officials in order to answer questions.

“We’re here to listen and find out what they need, which is what we all need — to keep our families healthy,” public health department director Barbara Ferrer said.

Spokesman Dan Kramer said Quemetco supported Saturday’s research efforts and funded the blood-testing portion. He said the company is “anxious” to get the results of the soil testing to the public.

“We believe that report is good news for our neighbors and shows that the Quemetco operation has not adversely affected the lead or arsenic levels around their homes,” Kramer said in a statement.

Public health department employees split into pairs to go door-to door to survey residents to find out how informed they were about Quemetco, the possible risks, whether soil testing had been conducted in the past five years — and more.

Public health nurses Maribel Castillon and Vivien Du were among the teams surveying residents. They visited homes on Fairbury Street, which almost back up to Quemetco.

Castillon said she had done similar outreach in Vernon as a result of contamination from the Exide battery recycling plant. Once it closed, much of the work done at Exide came to Quemetco, Castillon said.

“It doesn’t affect as big an area as Exide did, but there are still emissions of arsenic and lead,” Castillon said. “It’s important that we talk to as many people as possible.”

In February, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors opposed a proposed 25% expansion to the Quemetco facility, which crushes 600 tons of used lead-acid batteries a day, turning them into lead ingots shipped by truck to manufacturing facilities, according to its website. The plant — the largest west of the Rockies — operates on 15 acres at 720 S. Seventh Ave.

In a lawsuit filed last fall, the state Department of Toxic and Substances Control cited 29 violations that could affect public health and called for wider lead testing into Hacienda Heights, Avocado Heights, Bassett and La Puente as well as two schools.

Quemetco has received four notices of violations from SCAQMD for exceeding permitted arsenic levels since July 2017.

Resident Daisy Rios and her family were leaving their house just as the survey takers arrived. She said she had attended all public meetings related to the battery recycling plant and had participated in the soil testing.

While she was pleased the county was continuing its outreach efforts, Rios she said more needs to be done.

“There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here — we need action,” Rios said.

Hacienda Heights resident Irma Schrub does not live in what has been deemed the high-risk area near Quemetco but got blood drawn to be tested because she has delivered Meals on Wheels offerings in that area for 35 years.

“They need to do better outreach about this issue,” Schrub said. “Just because I don’t live in the immediate area doesn’t mean I might not be affected.”

Resident James Lee attended the resource fair to see if any new information was available about risks or potential remedies not only for his personal health but also because he fears it could affect his home’s value.

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