The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Los Angeles:
Poisoning Residents for Decades

May 23, 2016

California air quality regulators told battery recycler Quemetco that its plant in the City of Industry near Los Angeles is putting too much arsenic into the air, exposing thousands of residents in the area to an elevated risk of cancer.

Of course, the sensible thing would be to shut down the plant until the company stops poisoning the population. But no, instead, the officials gave Quemetco six months to ... no, not to stop spewing arsenic into the air–just to submit a “plan to reduce it.”

In the meantime, the officials said, Quemetco should “notify the residents of their health risks.” As if the working-class people who live in the area have the option not to breathe; or to just pick up and live somewhere else!

It’s nothing new. Quemetco has been operating this big battery recycling plant for more than 50 years, putting lead, arsenic and other poisonous substances into the air, soil and water on a daily basis. And state agencies have cited the company many times. Back in 1991, for example, state investigators declared lead levels in residential areas near the Quemetco plant unsafe. But Quemetco apparently continued to dump tons of lead into the soil and water. Almost a quarter century later, in 2013, the EPA found that Quemetco was responsible for 74 per cent of total lead compound releases in L.A.’s South Coast area!

And it’s not just Quemetco. Exide Technologies, the other big battery recycler in the L.A. area, shut down its plant last year–but not before poisoning tens of thousands of working-class residents near downtown L.A. with lead and arsenic for 33 years. During all those years, state regulators allowed Exide’s plant to operate on a “temporary permit,” even though they cited the company again and again for violating emission limits. Today, officials say the state (that is, taxpayers) will pay for the clean-up until Exide accepts responsibility!

Government officials putting company profits above human life, again and again, for decades–sounds familiar. It sounds like Flint, Michigan. Over and over, across the whole country.