Suspect East L.A. recycler will foot bill for blood tests; Lawmakers OK $10 minimum wage; L.A. River options

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todaysnewsbanner2Toxic worries. A Vernon battery recycling plant accused of polluting surrounding neighborhoods has agreed to pay for blood testing for tens of thousands of county residents. The tests will look for lead poisoning, and they’ll be performed by the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

Exide Technologies has been under fire since the South Coast Air Quality Management District found earlier this year that arsenic emissions at the plant increase the cancer the risk for more than 100,000 people. The L.A. Times reports that the same assessment showed that more than 250,000 residents of east L.A. face health hazards from the plant, which is one of the largest in the country.

State regulators suspended the company’s operations but Exide – which filed for bankruptcy this summer – appealed. A judge found he plant did not pose an imminent risk to residents and allowed Exide to reopen it.

County officials say the blood testing could begin next month and will probably stretch from Boyle Heights to Huntington Park. Health authorities are not testing for arsenic because such tests are inconclusive. But they will be looking for lead, which can cause a variety of health problems, especially in children.

There are still a lot of details to be worked out, including whether the county will send mobile crews into neighborhoods to conduct the testing or require people to go to clinics. Officials will put together an outreach plan to spread the word about the tests.

Meanwhile, community activists and politicians in eastern L.A. County launched a new legal effort this week to shut the plant down.

Legislative wrap. The state legislature wrapped up its regular session for the year just after midnight last night. Before lawmakers headed home, they signed off on a bill that would hike California’s minimum wage for the first time in six years. The measure would incrementally raise the wage from its current level of $8 an hour to $10 by 2016. Backers say the move would stimulate the economy. Opponents call it a “job killer.” …Another bill that passed yesterday would allow immigrants who are in the country illegally to get California driver’s licenses…The Legislature also approved a bill to speed and streamline the process for dismissing teachers accused of misconduct….and another bill headed to the governor would establish an early-warning system for earthquakes in California at a cost of $80 million. AP

Prison plan. Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown has signed off on a plan to reduce prison overcrowding in California approved by the Legislature earlier this week. It authorizes the Brown administration to spend part of money it originally wanted to use to send prisoners to private prisons or county jails for rehabilitation programs. But Sacramento’s plan can only happen if the court agrees to extend its end-of-year deadline for reducing the state prison population by nearly 10,000 inmates. Brown and legislative leaders say they are hopeful, but there is no guarantee the court will agree. Attorneys for inmates who sued the state say the proposal is vague and carries no guarantees of success. Sacramento Bee

lariverL.A. River. Angelenos could lean more today about the future of the L.A. River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to unveil four options for restoring the natural habitat of the beleaguered waterway. Each of the plans is expected to involve layers of natural habitat over existing concrete barriers and reconfiguring some riverside areas. The Army Corps is expected to make a recommendation on one of the four options. The L.A. City Council voted last month to pursue a comprehensive river restoration plan that could cost more than $1 billion. Most of the 51-mile-long river was paved over decades ago by the Army Corps to prevent flooding, a move that all-but destroyed the river’s natural habitat. KCET

C-17 farewell. Hundreds of employees gathered outside Boeing’s Long Beach airplane factory for a ceremony marking the delivery of the last C-17 cargo plane sold to the U.S. Air Force. The Boeing factory in Long Beach has been building the four-engine cargo jet for the Air Force since 1991. The massive Globemaster has been a workhorse for the military, airlifting tanks, troops and supplies and serving in medical evacuations. The Pentagon has decided not to order any more C-17s. If Boeing doesn’t drum up more international business, the Long Beach factory will close sometime next year and 4,000 workers could lose their jobs. Long Beach Press Telegram