BOYLE HEIGHTS (CBSLA.com) — Lead contamination near the Exide Technologies battery-recycling facility in Vernon could be far worse than previously thought.
According to environmental health experts, the contamination goes far beyond areas previously known, reported CBS2's Randy Paige.
Last year, two residential areas within the toxic emissions of the nearby facility were tested and widespread contamination was found.
The state department of Toxic Substances Control required Exide to remove the dirt from the yards of contaminated homes.
The two initial areas, north and south of the plant, contained slightly more than 200 homes.
But test results are now in for an expanded area encompassing all of the areas shown in the map below in green.
Each red dot shows the location of soil samples containing lead at hazardous waste levels – more than 1000 parts per million of lead.
The yellow dots represent samples with more than 400 parts per million of lead. As Paige reports, these were spot checks from just 146 homes in an area with thousands of homes within the area of known contamination.
John Froines, a noted professor emeritus of toxicology at the UCLA School of Public Health, says the amount of contamination in the expanded areas is equal to the contamination in the first two assessment areas – enough lead to poison children who live there.
"There's no question children are at risk and significantly so," he said.
CBS2 wanted to speak with Barbara Lee, the director of the state department of Toxic Substances Control, to ask her what her agency is doing to protect the people who live in the community.
However, Lee refused to speak to the news station on camera or to answer any questions. She referred the news station instead to her staff, who responded with an email, which said in part: "We did not find any emergency levels of lead as defined by the U.S. EPA."
The U.S. EPA has two requirements in order to declare an emergency – contaminated soil and victims with lead poisoning in their blood.
While the lead levels were enough to fall under the EPA definition of "emergency," there were no blood poisoned victims identified. "Thus," the DTSC writes, "there is no emergency."
The statement went on to say: "DTSC will thoroughly evaluate all the data to determine the extent of Exide's contamination before determining next steps."
Froines says every day that goes by without cleaning the lead from this community is another day children are forced to live within the contamination.
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