Properties with lead-contaminated soil thanks to Exide Technologies in Vernon are dealing with a slow and "incomplete" clean-up job, with some houses only getting half of the decontamination process done on their residences. The state's Department of Toxic Substances Control has taken polluted soil out of the ground at 174 properties in Maywood and Boyle Heights, but of those, just 44 have had the other half of the procedure done, which involves vacuuming out the interiors of residences, where contaminated soil was probably carried in, says KPCC.
The interior clean-up is a process that property owners haven't been well-informed about, say some environmental advocates working in the area. They say that when an interior cleaning of their house is offered, it's not always clear that it will use a special HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum designed to remove super-tiny particles like the contaminated ones the agency's hoping to remove; the letter offering the service doesn't clarify that it's being offered by the Toxic Substances Control, either (so it doesn't seem very official). Many residents thought that the offer was for something similar to what a housekeeper might do, and turned it down.
Another obstacle to the agency getting inside people's houses to suck up toxins is that the campaign to educate residents has focused on getting the word out to property owners, but many in the area rent, and therefore haven't received all the information about the process. (The state agency says it held two meetings for property owners about the decontamination efforts.)
Those 170 or so homes that have been half-detoxified are just a tiny portion of the houses that might have to be cleaned. This week, at a meeting of the LA County Board of Supervisors where the Supes approved $2 million to help speed up the sluggish remediation process around Exide, County Supe Hilda Solis estimated that up to 1,000 might have been polluted enough to be hazardous, and "the state has estimated that 5,000-10,000 homes may ultimately require some cleanup," the City News Service reports.
The toxin-removing process in Exide-adjacent neighborhoods officially got rolling in March, when Exide closed and agreed to pay $50 million to help clean up the neighborhoods around its Vernon plant where elevated levels of toxins like lead were found in the soil.
· Exide cleanup efforts are incomplete in most cases [SCPR]
· LA County to spend $2M for soil cleanup at Exide battery plant in Vernon [CNS]
· Poisonous Vernon Plant Finally Getting Shut Down and Razed [Curbed LA]