A state agency whisked 500,000 pounds of contaminated lead soil from around a defunct battery plant in L.A. County to a toxic waste dump in the Inland Empire. A local city says, Not in our backyard.
The city of Jurupa Valley has demanded the Department of Toxic Substances Control remove the half dozen shipping containers of contaminated soil it says came from the former Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported. The material is now stored at the Stringfellow acid pits in the hills north of the 60 Freeway.
The agency plans to ship four more containers of contaminated soil to the infamous dump, according to a letter to the agency signed by Mayor Chris Barajas.
“The City of Jurupa Valley strongly objects to this blatantly illegal action by DTSC,” Barajas wrote, demanding that the material be removed immediately.
The state toxics regulator claims the contaminated soil samples weren’t removed from the Exide plant, but came from properties surrounding the facility.
Allison Wescott, a spokeswoman for the agency, said the samples are being preserved for the department’s litigation against former operators and owners of the Exide plant.
They are “in sealed jars within six locked shipping containers in a parking lot within the fenced Stringfellow site,” she said in a statement, adding that the samples have been there since 2018. Four more containers will arrive at the Stringfellow site by the end of the month, she said, while additional containers will hold samples collected from Vernon residences.
“When litigation is complete, and the samples can be disposed of, they will be transported to approved and certified waste landfills,” Wescott said.
The former Exide Technologies plant in Vernon contaminated thousands of properties in surrounding neighborhoods, and now is the subject of a state-ordered cleanup.
Stringfellow is a former rock quarry used to dump 33 million gallons of toxic industrial waste from 1956 to 1970. Groundwater contamination spread, threatening drinking-water wells and the Santa Ana River.
Now a Superfund site, the 17-acre acid pits are undergoing an environmental cleanup. It could take up to 400 years, regulators say.
Barajas, citing a state law stipulating that the Stringfellow dump can only be used to treat and store hazardous materials from that site, says the Vernon soil is illegal and wants it gone. More than 70 percent of the 105,000 residents living in nearby Jurupa are Latino.
There’s “no clearer violation of the principles of environmental justice” than to store hazardous waste “in a predominantly low-income, minority community,” Barajas said.
State Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, and Assembly Member Sabrina Cervantes, D-Riverside, sent a letter in support of the city’s request to California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Jared Blumenfeld. The DTSC is a division of Cal EPA.
The storage concerns come as the city is developing a tourist-and-leisure zone with hotels, restaurants and entertainment on the north side of the 60 Freeway at Pyrite Street. City Manager Rod Butler said he doesn’t believe the storage of contaminated soil will derail or delay the North Pyrite Master Plan, which could be completed by fall.
[Riverside Press-Enterprise] – Dana Bartholomew