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Almost All Homes Tested Near Exide Plant Are Contaminated With Lead

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Nearly every single home examined by state and county officials for lead contamination from the now shuttered Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon has yielded lead levels high enough to demand environmental cleanup, reports KPCC this morning.

So far, more than 99 percent of the approximately 1,000 tested properties require lead cleanup, including 621 tested by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, and 382 tested by the L.A. County department of public health. So far, only five tested properties do not require cleanup.

More than 10,000 properties, including schools and parks surrounding the old Exide facility, will be tested for lead toxicity and cleaned up as needed.

A couple of weeks ago, Governor Jerry Brown pledged $176 million to pay for the cleanup process, following an outcry from activists and citizens that the residents of Boyle Heights, Vernon, Huntington Park and other surrounding communities were being ignored. An editorial in the L.A. Times argued, as did many in affected communities throughout East and South East L.A. County, that the Exide toxicity was just as critical—if not more so—than the simultaneously occurring Porter Ranch Gas leak. However, because the toxins were in a poor community of color, the state was less motivated to act.

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The cleanup entire process is expected to take more than two years, with health officials estimating that cleanup will be completed in June of 2018.

Until then, the county offers the following advice for families living on lead-contaminated land:

  • Do not let kids play on bare soil, when possible.
  • Take off shoes before coming into your home.
  • Wet mop floors instead of dry sweeping.
  • Wipe windowsills and other surfaces where dust collects with a wet cloth.
  • Wash hands and toys often.

How comforting.

The Exide battery recycling plant was forced to close down in March of 2015 because investigators discovered the plant had been coating surrounding neighborhoods with a fine, toxic lead dust for decades. Exide agreed to cover the cost of the cleanup.