LA County Opposes Quemetco’s Proposed Expansion of Operations

Quemetco, a battery-recycling facility, has been in operation since 1972 in the City of Industry. On a daily basis, the plant crushes and melts 600 tons of used lead-acid batteries and stores hazardous wastes, including partially-processed lead-containing materials. Over the years, Quemetco has repeatedly violated state laws in the handling of toxic substances and has endangered the health and safety of its employees and surrounding communities. In response, today the Board of Supervisors approved a motion, authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, to oppose the proposed expansion of Quemetco’s operations.

“If you violate state laws that protect public health, you should not be allowed to expand your operations. Quemetco must be held accountable for violating state laws on hazardous waste and air pollution. LA County will shield our residents from exposure to hazardous waste, including lead,” said Supervisor Solis. “The County opposes Quemetco’s proposed expansion because it would increase hazardous waste, air pollution, including lead and arsenic emissions, and lead to water quality issues, traffic, and other public health impacts in a community that has already suffered because of Quemetco’s actions. Regulators must deny Quemetco’s proposal to expand.”

“Both Supervisor Solis and I have voiced our opposition to the proposal to expand Quemetco’s operations and have asked for the State to expand the lead contamination testing perimeter before—but today we do so with the full strength of the Board of Supervisors behind us,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “The Quemetco plant has repeatedly violated state laws in their handling of toxic substances including lead, arsenic, and butadiene—endangering their own workers and nearby residents. These violations make it clear that this plant should not be awarded with an expansion permit and raise serious concerns about the facility’s current operations.”

In March 2015, prior to the expiration of Quemetco’s operating permits, the plant had submitted an application to the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to renew its permit. DTSC has been reviewing that application and has not yet reached a decision on Quemetco’s request for renewal. In addition, Quemetco has applied to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) for approval to expand its operations and for permission to use petroleum coke, a known polluting fuel source.

In November 2018, DTSC sued Quemetco for 29 violations of state hazardous waste laws and regulations. Since July 2017, the plant has received four violation notices from the SCAQMD, including two for exceeding the level of permitted arsenic emissions. The neighborhoods surrounding the facility have been identified as disadvantaged communities by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA). Neighborhoods near the Quemetco facility are predominantly low-income communities of color, which raises serious environmental justice concerns if regulators approve Quemetco’s request to expand.

With the approval of today’s motion, the Board of Supervisors will send a five-signature letter to DTSC and to SCAQMD expressing the County’s opposition to Quemetco’s proposed operations expansion. The letter also urges DTSC to keep in mind the facility’s past 10 years of violations while reviewing Quemetco’s permit renewal request. In the letter, the County will ask that DTSC demand more samplings of possible lead contamination in the neighborhoods near Quemetco and that those sampling results be made public. Copies of this letter will be sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom, CalEPA Director Jared Blumenfeld and to the Los Angeles County State Legislative Delegation.

Contact: Rosa Maria Santana, Deputy Communications Director, rsantana@bos.lacounty.gov or 213-359-0795