State regulators have released a plan to remove soil from the 2,500 most contaminated properties in a 1.7-mile radius around the closed Exide Technologies facility in Vernon, as part of ongoing lead contamination cleanup in the area.
The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the state agency in charge of the cleanup, said Thursday it expects to begin work on the cleanup outlined by this new plan sometime after the end of August. It will be “the largest cleanup of its kind ever in California,” according to Barbara Lee, director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control.
But community activists say the announced plan doesn’t do enough to protect the lives of residents in communities surrounding Exide.
Mark Lopez, executive director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, told KPCC: “the state knows that they’re leaving thousands of homes, thousands of families, to fend for ourselves.”
According to KPCC, DTSC has lab results from 7,000 properties that have already been tested and nearly all of them have elevated concentrations of lead.
In the cleanup process, the DTSC says it will prioritize the homes that are most contaminated, as well as daycare and child care centers. Homes that reach the federal trigger of 400 ppm or higher lead concentration in a representative sampling, and those that have at least one sample of 1,000 ppm or higher, will be the first properties cleaned up. Daycares and child care centers will only need to meet the state’s standard of 80 ppm or higher to be part of the initial cleanup.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, lead can can cause brain damage and developmental problems to small children. The DTSC says there is no safe level of lead contamination.
Last year, the state approved a $176 million special fund that will allow for more than 10,000 properties to have their soil tested and cleanup the 2,500 most contaminated ones. Last month, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced results of a community survey that showed great community concern over lead contamination caused by Exide.
Children in the 1.7-mile radius have tested positive for elevated levels of lead in their blood and parents have been advised to not let their kids play in contaminated soil.
KPCC reports that DTSC will offer temporary relocation to residents while their homes are scrubbed and soil replaced and the state plans on hosting community meetings to talk to residents about the cleanup process.
The battery recycling plant was closed after numerous environmental violations including spewing lead into the nearby communities of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Commerce, Maywood, Bell, and Huntington Park.