By Associated Press - Wednesday, October 28, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Los Angeles County will spend $2 million to help speed the cleanup of contaminated soil around a battery recycling plant that that violated hazardous waste laws and spewed toxic emissions for decades.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the funding request by Supervisor Hilda Solis, who accused the state of moving too slowly to clean up around the now-closed Exide Technologies plant in suburban Vernon, City News Service reported.

Exide agreed in March to close the facility and pay $50 million for the cleanup of the 15-acre site and surrounding neighborhoods. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup. As of August, Exide, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, had paid $9 million into a trust and another $5 million is due to be paid in by March 2020, according to state officials.

But not enough has been done by the Department of Toxic Substances Control to protect the health of residents, Solis said.

As many as 1,000 homes may be found to have toxicity concentrated enough to qualify as hazardous waste, and the state has estimated that 5,000 to 10,000 homes may ultimately require some cleanup, Solis said. The price tag could run in excess of $400 million, she said.

Last week, a Department of Toxic Substances Control spokesman said the state had cleaned the yards of 170 homes around the facility and cleaned the “interior of every home where the property owner has granted us access.”

The plant, which produced a host of hazardous wastes, including lead, arsenic and benzene, operated for 33 years without a permanent permit. Efforts to upgrade the equipment and safety procedures repeatedly failed to meet environmental standards.

The cleanup project, expected to take at least five years, is one of eight sites the company is responsible for cleaning up nationwide.

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