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Toxic Soil at Watts's Jordan Downs Getting Reexamined

Will the second look lead to a different outcome?

A 2014 decision made by the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to "take no further action" on the lead-contaminated soil at Watts's Jordan Downs housing project is getting a second look. KPCC reports that the reexamination has little to do with the specifics of the housing complex's case and more to do with an investigation of the high-level department scientist who approved the initial decision (officially, "No Further Action") for the site after it was discovered that the scientist had swapped racist emails with another coworker.

The decision not to take action on the lead contamination at Jordan Downs surprised residents and activists when it came down. The DTSC had taken a variety of samples from the housing complex site and lead levels in around half those samples ranged from from 80 to 145 parts per million. (80 ppm is the DTSC's minimum for removing lead from residential areas.)

But when the department averaged the samples together, the result was 80 parts per million. (A DTSC rep says that averaging soil sample results is common agency practice.) From there, the senior scientist who's now being investigated ruled that that the 80 ppm finding was more or less consistent with "ambient levels of lead found in urban areas of Los Angeles," so nothing further had to be done.

The decision on Jordan Downs and many other cases under the oversight of this scientist are under review now, and the department isn't sure how long it's going to take to conclude. The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles is pushing on with its already delayed plan to redevelop Jordan Downs, approving a contract to demolish four multi-family buildings on the site just last week. (The contract still requires federal housing authority approval.)

Jordan Downs

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