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Climate and Environment

Officials Celebrate Exide Cleanup While Some Homes Still Unchecked For Lead

A view of the sky and area around the plant. There is a chemical cloud rising in the air near sunset.
Sunrise over Vernon, where the Exide plant was located.
(Britta Gustafson via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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The California Department of Toxic Substances Control has lauded the cleanup of 3,200 properties with the most “dangerous levels of lead” around a shuttered battery recycler in Vernon, though many local residents are still waiting for their homes to be cleaned.

The Exide Technologies plant spewed lead and other toxic chemicals for decades before being forced to shut down in 2015.

Boyle Heights resident Terry Cano lives near the Exide site but said she has no idea when or even if her home will ever be decontaminated.

“There isn't anything I can do because I can't force them," she said. "I've asked nicely. Put it in writing. Even politicians have asked and still, I can’t even get on the list to get my property clean."

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Another local resident, Daisy Chavez, said she had to get the soil in her yard tested herself. Lead was found and she had to pay to replace the soil.

Chavez worries about neighbors who may not have the time and money to do the same.

“Some of our community members don't have that luxury, don't have that access, and definitely wouldn't be able to afford to even pay for someone to come out and test your soil,” she said.

There are several thousand more polluted properties in the area that have yet to be cleaned. Some haven’t even been tested yet.

In a statement to LAist, the department says it plans to clean up another 2,700 properties by March 2025 with funding it received this year. Eighty “qualified residential properties” are cleaned monthly, according to the department. DTSC says other cleanups have taken longer with fewer properties.

“This is the largest, most logistically complex residential cleanup of its kind in California’s history,” wrote a DTSC spokesperson. “In seven years, we finished more than 3,200 parcels, despite significant challenges, such as extreme weather events and COVID precautions.”

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Updated January 14, 2022 at 3:52 PM PST
This story was updated to include a statement from DTSC.