Final Exide clean-up plan criticized by locals and county officials

Up to 2,500 properties within a 1.7-mile radius of the now-notorious Exide lead battery recycling plant at Vernon, Los Angeles, will be cleaned up over a two-year period, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control announced in its clean-up plan and final environmental impact report on July 6.

The plan has not gone down well with local officials and residents, who say it’s too little, too late.

Local news website mynewsla.com quoted Los Angeles county supervisor Hilda Solis as saying the plan would leave thousands of residents exposed to dangerous levels of lead.

“The DTSC’s final clean-up plan ignores many of the reasonable concerns raised by the community members,” she said.

“This is the largest clean-up of its kind ever in California,” said DTSC director Barbara Lee. “DTSC engaged in extensive public outreach and worked with the community to prepare the EIR and clean-up plan and to ensure the community is protected during this ambitious project. We are eager to get to work removing lead from the soil of family homes impacted by the operations of the former Exide facility.”

Homes with soil concentrations of 400 parts per million or higher will be prioritized, along with those where any individual soil sampling was found to have 1,000 ppm or higher, even if overall the concentration was less than 400.

“We listened to the communities’ concerns throughout this process, worked with them to finalize the clean-up plan, and will continue to involve them throughout the clean-up process,” said Mohsen Nazemi, deputy director for DTSC’s brownfields and environmental restoration program. “We are now ready to begin this important step in removing contaminated soil from these neighbourhoods.”

But more than 15 months after governor Jerry Brown signed into law a $176.6 million general fund loan to expedite and expand the testing of 10,000 properties, no cleaning has yet begun.

The next step is for the DTSC to hire cleaning companies, bids from which have just been invited and contracts should be handed out next month.