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Only On 2: Head Of Agency Charged With Cleaning Up Homes Contaminated By Exide Battery Plant Talks

HUNTINGTON PARK (  —  Residents of Huntington Park have been waiting for the state to begin cleaning up the thousands of homes contaminated by the now-closed Exide Battery Recycling plant.

When will the clean up begin? The community is frankly, fed up, out of patience and at the boiling point.

The head of the agency tasked with the clean up effort is speaking on television for the first time.

Barbara Lee also spoke with CBS2's Randy Paige.

It's a story that is Only On 2.

Toxic Substances Control Director Lee met with members of various communities that surround the battery plant.

Many of the residents, said Paige, told heartbreaking stories about the illness they attribute to living near the plant.

Anthony Guiterrez, who grew up just a few blocks from Exide, said he was suffering from brain cancer.

"At times I feel that I'm a burden to my family, and I tell them I am it would be easier for them if I wasn't alive but my family loves me to death and encourages me," Guiterrez says.

Lee told the group she found an additional $7 million -- to be borrowed from next year's budget -- that will allow the group to get started in homes already tested. The money will also allow them to begin testing in 10,000 other homes in the contaminated area.

Exide Technologies
(credit: CBS)

"We're hoping that we have a plan in place and have crews working in the next couple of months," Lee said.

She understands the frustration with delays.

"We expect to be starting on the homes priority 1 -- under those same criteria," she added. She said it would take definitely more than days or weeks to get the funding in place.

"At the end of the day the question, fundamental question, is where's the money to complete the clean up?," says Angelo Bellomeo, LA County Director of Environmental Health.

Paige reported that $7 million is a good start but clean up for each home is estimated at about $40,000 per house -- and with 5-10,000 homes to clean and fix, the money required will reach between $200-400 million -- begging the question, where will the rest of that money come from? And, how soon can the job begin and how long before it's finished.

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