Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis and members of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health expressed disappointment that the new plan doesn’t adopt a more expansive approach to ridding the area of contamination. Instead, they claim, it only focuses on individual properties.
“The community requested that the interior of their homes be fully cleaned to ensure that lead tracked indoors over decades will be removed,” said Solis. “They also asked that any positive tests for contaminated soil trigger a cleanup, and that DTSC adopt a block-by-block approach to recognize that children don’t just play in their own yards, but their neighbors as well.”
The long awaited final plan outlines a cleanup of some of the most vulnerable properties that have the highest lead sampling results. The threshold for having any kind of lead contamination cleaned up is 80 parts per million. The most immediate focus is on cleaning properties that have test results at 400ppm or higher, or at least one reading over 1,000ppm.
For the past two years DTSC has been testing soil in a 1.7 mile radius around the now closed Exide battery plant in Vernon, Calif. The plant closed in March 2015 after years of polluting the adjacent communities with a host of toxic chemicals including lead and arsenic. About 10,000 properties are impacted in the area. This includes homes, day cares, child care centers, schools, and parks.
Parks, day cares, and child care centers are home to the most vulnerable population in these communities - young children.
“It is scary to think about the possibilities that there could be lead in the dirt. It is where kids play, but it is reassuring that they are testing it,” said Mary Rivas, a resident of Maywood. She and her son come to Pixley Park in Maywood, one of the pocket parks in the residential community. “We come every day for an hour, two hours depending on how long my son wants to stay” said Rivas.
Luckily for Rivas, Pixley tested clean and there are only two parks that need further assessment or cleanup, according to the plan. But it also states five private schools and 46 daycare centers require cleanup or more testing.
Some facilities are already being notified and will be soon cleaned up. That means the soil will be removed and replaced at each contaminated property. According to DTSC, this is the largest clean up effort of its kind in California.
About a year ago, Governor Jerry Brown earmarked $176.6 million for the project, covering the clean up of 2,500 homes out of 7,011 properties tested. This leaves about 4,000 properties that will have to wait to be remediated.
The plan leaves the community divided - those who made the list to be cleaned up and those who didn't. For residents like Mary Rivas, living in industrial areas, the unease doesn't end with a plan.
“Move forward, but keep testing and make sure it doesn't happen again.”