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Frustrated Residents Still Await Cleanup Outside Exide Battery Plant

BOYLE HEIGHTS ( — Six months ago, Terry Cano received disturbing news that soil samples taken from her yard contained hazardous-waste levels of lead in a neighborhood less than 2 miles from the former Exide battery-recycling facility.

"Its a never-ending nightmare," Cano said.

Cano is yet to receive word from government officials when the contamination will be cleaned up.

"You go to sleep and you're worrying about it, you wake up and you're worrying about it," Cano added.

Her home is one of 146 Vernon residences tested in an area encompassing 10,000 homes.

CBS2/KCAL9 rented a device certified by the EPA to provide instant readings of the amount of lead in soil or dust.

The state says that residential soil with more than 80 parts per million should be removed because even tiny amounts of lead can affect young children's brains, causing learning disabilities and other serious problems.

The results were alarming.

We found levels more than 10 times that amount with so much lead in the soil, it was defined as hazardous waste.

Not only did we find numerous locations containing hazardous waste in Cano's yard, but inside her house, we found more than 600 ppm of lead after swabbing her door and window sill.

Next door to Cano's house, a 20-month-old child lives with his parents, where we found levels of hazardous waste measured at more than 5,000 ppm.

The toddler's father had no idea that his little boy was exposed to this hazardous waste.

"No. No contact whatsoever. Nothing, no phone calls, nothing," the father told us.

Nearby, along public sidewalks where children routinely walk and play, we found more bare soil with so much lead that it, too, is defined as hazardous waste.

When we went even closer to the former Exide facility, the numbers began to rise even higher.

Bare dirt close to the plant's entrance along a public sidewalk had 19,200 ppm, 28,500 ppm, and 24.4 ppm of lead.

Jun Wu is a noted professor of public health at UC Irvine who has completed a study into lead exposures in children in Southern California.

"I think this cleanup should be done as soon as possible because these levels are very high," Wu said.

She said that such high levels of hazardous waste can certainly cause serious health problems to children who are exposed.

Cyrus Rangan is a pediatrician and medical toxicologist for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health who is concerned with the situation.

"When you're fishing, now you're talking about the fish coming into contact with water that now could be potentially contaminated with lead, and if there's uptake into those fish and then people eat the fish, so you see the domino effect" Rangan said

"We have a tremendous environmental problem here that needs to be addressed quickly," he added.

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