An Eastside resident speaks during public comment section of the Exide Advisory Group meeting at Resurrection Church. Photo by Antonio Mejías-Rentas

A recent public meeting of the Exide Advisory Group went over two hours longer than expected and left many Eastside residents with unanswered questions about the extent of the lead contamination caused by the Exide Technologies battery recycling facility in Vernon.

Area residents expected the newly formed group to address a recent news report that claimed that soil samples from homes near the facility showed lead contamination to be far more grievous than has been stated by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) –the state agency charged with closing Exide.

Last year, DTSC ordered the cleanup of some 130 properties found to be contaminated in two residential areas within the toxic emissions range of the Exide facility, which includes parts of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and the City of Maywood.

But in a July 8 story by reporter Randy Paige, CBS Los Angeles said that recent tests of an expanded area about two miles north and two miles south of the facility found many soil samples containing lead at hazardous waste levels – more than 1,000 parts of lead per million parts of soil.

DTSC, however, told the news outlet that it did not find any dangerous levels of lead in the Expanded Sampling Area, as defined by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

At the July 23 Advisory Group meeting, DTSC Director Barbara Lee insisted there was no immediate need for concern over contamination levels in the expanded area of some 2,000 homes, including many in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. She said that only one in 147 homes tested in the expanded area required immediate cleanup.

Most of the meeting was devoted to a review of the closure plan for Exide, which is expected to go into effect in January. In spite of repeated calls from residents to address the contamination issue–and allow reporter Paige to question Lee–the group kept to its agenda and did not allow public comment until nearly 10 p.m. The meeting at Resurrection Church had been scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m.

When Paige was allowed to speak during the public comment section, he said his review of test results found 40 homes requiring immediate cleanup, according to original DTSC protocols, and asked Lee if the agency was changing its protocols for the expanded area.

Lee said she would review the station’s findings and address the contamination issue at a future meeting.

Lee co-presides over the advisory group with Barry Wallerstein, executive director of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and Mark Lopez, director of East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice. No date has been set for its next public meeting.

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Boyle Heights Beat

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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