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County Leaders Denounce Exide Cleanup Plan As Inadequate

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The infamous former Exide Technologies battery recycling facility exposed half a dozen Southeast L.A. communities to decades of arsenic and lead pollution, and the effects still linger. The plant may have permanently shuttered in 2015, but California’s largest lead contamination cleanup remains ongoing. More than 100,000 people who live, work, and play near the former Exide plant may still be at risk, according to the Department of Public Health.

Now, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has put together their final cleanup plan for the surrounding properties, and Los Angeles County leaders are crying foul. County leaders have denounced the proposed plan as "unacceptable," and argue that it will leave thousands of residents surrounding the former facility exposed to dangerous levels of lead. DTSC is the agency responsible for both evaluating the level of soil contamination, as well as carrying out cleanup efforts.

DTSC's plan reportedly failed to include several key changes that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health had urged DTSC to implement in order to ensure that elevated lead levels don't remain in the community. The proposed cleanup plan also lays out a two-year timeline to clean up 2500 homes in the area; county officials deem that timeline to be woefully inadequate. A statement from the Office of Countywide Communications said the plan "discounts the urgent need to act and continues to expose children and families to dangerous levels of lead."

“DTSC’s final cleanup plan falls short in protecting the health of the community," Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.

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“I am deeply disheartened by the final cleanup plan issued last week by DTSC. This community has suffered enough, not only at the hands of Exide, but at the hands of DTSC, which allowed Exide to operate on a temporary permit for 33 years. The DTSC’s final cleanup plan ignores many of the reasonable concerns raised by the community members,” Supervisor Hilda Solis, who represents the affected communities, said in a statement. “The community requested that the interior of their homes be fully cleaned to ensure that lead tracked indoors over decades will be removed. They also asked that any positive tests for contaminated soil trigger a cleanup, and that DTSC adopt a block-by-block approach to recognize that children don’t just play in their own yards, but their neighbors as well.”

The Daily News reports that the state will certify its plan next week, and cleanup contractors will likely be hired in August.

Update [Wednesday, 9 a.m.]: LAist received the following statement from DTSC in response to a request for comment on the county complaints: "DTSC is committed to cleaning up properties near the former Exide Technologies battery-recycling facility in Vernon. The health and safety of this community, especially the youngest and most vulnerable is the department’s top priority. The proposed cleanup is the largest of its kind undertaken in California; it demonstrates the Administration’s strong commitment to protecting the health of those who live in these communities."

“This cleanup plan is the result of more than a year of effort and community input. We held three public meetings to solicit comments and had an extended comment period. We received about 1,000 public comments, which we carefully reviewed and considered in the final document. In response to the public comments we received, DTSC adjusted the prioritization process to streamline it in a manner that continues to protect the health of residents at properties with the highest levels of lead in soil and the greatest risk of exposure to that lead," Mohsen Nazemi, Deputy Director for DTSC’s Brownfields and Environmental Restoration Program.