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Exide must cut output at California plant

Sep 20, 2013 | 06:18 PM |

Tags  Exide Technologies Ltd., lead smelter, lead smissions, arsenic emissions, production cut, California Air Quality Management District, Vernon, Calif. Quemetco Inc.

NEW YORK — Embattled battery maker Exide Technologies Ltd. has been ordered to cut production by 15 percent at its secondary lead smelting facility in Vernon, Calif., after air quality tests by California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) allegedly showed lead emissions exceeded permissible levels.

Lead emissions cannot exceed 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter of air based on a 30-day average, according to AQMD rules. A high reading by an air monitor at the Vernon plant on Sept. 9 pushed its 30-day average to 0.17 micrograms per cubic meter. Milton, Ga.-based Exide must now curtail production until it can show its lead emissions meet requirements, according to the AQMD.

The emission standards enforced by AQMD are stricter than federal guidelines, largely because of Exide’s continued emissions issues in the region, an AQMD spokesman told AMM Sept. 20.

A company spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Activist groups representing surrounding communities have called for the Vernon plant’s permanent closure, but there are viable solutions to the problem, the AQMD spokesman said. "The bottom line is they have to reduce their air toxic emissions, specifically lead and arsenic," he said, adding that the region’s other lead smelting facility, Industry, Calif.-based Quemetco, Inc., uses advanced wet electrostatic precipitators to reduce harmful emissions. "Exide told us that money and physical space have so far prevented them from utilizing that type of technology."

The capacity reduction may lead Exide to reduce purchasing, which could send prices for junk batteries even lower, one battery seller said. "Prices for batteries are going to continue to come down. When supply increases and the demand picture doesn’t change, prices have to weaken." He said that with fewer domestic secondary lead smelters, any reduction in capacity can significantly impact the overall market.

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