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Mayor Garcetti's Action On Exide Cleanup Comes Late for Some

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis were pounding the pavement in Boyle Heights Saturday, knocking on doors to get the word out about the resources available to residents in determining if they have been exposed to cancer-causing pollutants from a local battery recycling plant.

Mayor Eric Garcetti was in Boyle Heights to go door-to-door with volunteers and talk with residents about the importance...

Posted by Mayor Eric Garcetti on Saturday, March 12, 2016

With hundreds of volunteers in tow, officials disseminated information about soil examinations and blood testing for residents near the now-shuttered Exide battery smelting plant located in Vernon. The plant, which according to the L.A. Times had been cited for over 100 violations from the state toxics regulator for decades, was finally closed last March after years of concerns of pollution from activists and neighboring communities, as well as the threat of federal criminal charges against to company.

The door-to-door campaign was the most recent in an ongoing effort encouraging residents to get their properties tested for lead and other pollutants linked to learning disabilities and lowered IQs in children. According to state regulators, up to 10,000 homes within a 1.75-mile radius might sit atop fouled soil.

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Gov. Jerry Brown last month pledged $176 million to continue the cleanup effort, monies subject to legislative approval, which lawmakers would seek to recoup from Exide.

For some, however, if the help is not too little, it's definitely late.

Supervisor Solis, who represents several of the affected communities, including Boyle Heights, Maywood and Commerce, previously criticized the state’s slow response, stating the delayed cleanup effort had “gone on too long.” State Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León echoed the criticism, saying incompetence at the Department of Toxic Substances Control was partly to blame.

Closer to home, Eastside activists have made the response, or lack thereof, a matter of equity. In a statement released ahead of the door-to-door campaign Saturday, the group East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice said it was opting out of the event due to Mayor Eric Garcetti being “disconnected from what is happening in our communities.” They claim, as do others, that the response to the situation in the predominantly working-class, Latino area of Boyle Heights pales in comparison to the expedited efforts made to fix the natural gas leak in the more affluent community of Porter Ranch—decades vs. four months.

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“What we have issue with is how long it took Mayor Garcetti to acknowledge the Exide issue (especially when compared to his response at Porter Ranch), the fact that we had to push for this to happen, and have had to continually push to see any action out of his office (which is now only beginning to look anything like his response in Porter Ranch), and the response has been problematic.”

EYCEJ and other community groups will be leading their own “Get the Lead Out” event Saturday, March 19 to register homes for soil testing.

The City of L.A. will also be providing resources on the Exide closure and soil testing the following three Saturdays at the Benjamin Franklin Library in Boyle Heights.

Residents can find more information and soil testing application forms in English and Spanish at http://exidecleanup.lacity.org.