ATLANTA (WUPA) – The federal Environmental Protection Agency has released the latest data related to its efforts tied to cleaning up lead contamination in Atlanta's Westside community.
The mostly minority-populated Westside is still on the EPA'S National Priority List for lead contamination clean-up efforts, and Georgia State Rep. Mesha Mainor says getting more neighbors signed up to participate remains a challenge.
"As far as the amount of people that have been participating, it's basically the same," Mainor said.
While some progress has occurred, the surface has barely been scraped in terms of addressing the ongoing concerns of local residents.
"Lead contamination causes mental health problems, it decreases IQ, it is a high rate of infant mortality," said Mainor. "It can cause behavioral problems. How it impacts children and seniors is way more detrimental than others."
The Westside Lead Study Area now includes about 2,097 properties -- and of that number, the EPA says they have received 1,074 signed authorization forms allowing them to come in to clean them up.
As of last March, the EPA had sampled more than 950 properties, finding that 377 tested above the maximum 400 milligrams per kilogram level and required clean-up. By that point, they had cleaned up 116. Since then, and as of August 18, a total of 1,034 properties had been sampled, 419 of them tested above the maximum level, and 150 of them were cleaned up.
Rosario Hernandez, the executive director of the Historic Westside Gardens, is thankful the EPA removed the slag from her property and no lead was found at the community garden two properties down called the Elm Street Urban Farm.
"From the properties they have been able to test, they have done a great job informing the folks and doing the remediation. The problem is that there's a lot of properties that were not given the approval, so they can't go on those properties," Hernandez said.
She's hoping the government will intervene, and she's urging renters to reach out to their property owners.
"If you live within English Avenue and Vine City, we know that there was dumping done down here by foundries. Get your soil tested before it's too late," Hernandez said, also mentioning the testing is free.
The EPA is taking public comments to address the concerns, and the comment period ends on September 25, 2022. For more information, click here: https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/CurSites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0407160
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