Photo by Art Torres
Photo by Art Torres

State-mandated ground soil cleanup began this week at two Boyle Heights homes near a Vernon battery recycling plant suspected to be responsible for lead contamination in the area.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control ordered Exide Technologies to remove 18 inches of polluted soil at the two properties located near the border of Boyle Heights and Vernon after testing showed lead contamination exceeded 400 parts per million.

The cleanup, which began Monday and is expected to continue this week, comes as a result from mandatory ground soil testing ordered last year by the DTSC, which found 39 area homes were polluted with high levels of lead. Testing will now be expanded to include 144 homes in a 2-square mile area conducted over the next two months, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The troubled battery-recycling plant was first shut down in April of last year when the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) showed the company’s arsenic emissions posed a significant cancer risk to more than 100,000 southeast area residents.

The company has since faced numerous health code violations and was forced to cease operations in March.

Salvador Chavez, owner of one of the two homes near the intersection of Olympic Blvd. and La Puerta St., told the L.A. Times he was glad his home was being cleaned.

“I hope this is just the beginning and that they continue cleaning up all the contamination, wherever they find it,” Chavez told the Times.

Just steps away from the clean up site, community members and activists gathered at a press conference Monday demanding Exide and DTSC step up its testing in surrounding communities and clean up soil at all properties where lead exceeds 80 parts per million.

“Exide must be forced to clean up all the lead contamination in our communities this must include all homes, schools, parks and businesses. The initial plan by DTSC and Exide to clean just two homes was a grave injustice,” said Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council President Carlos Montes in a statement.

“We all know that lead is a health risk, especially to children.”

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also demanded swift action by the DTSC on Tuesday in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, addressing the importance of cleanup at contaminated homes.

Exide officials have claimed none of the test results have directly linked the contamination to the company, and that they are committed to stay in compliance with state environmental regulations.

Gus Ugalde

Gus Ugalde is a print journalist and Boyle Heights native. He is a graduate of both Salesian High School and East Los Angeles College. With writing as his passion, he has had over 500 stories published...

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