Thousands of property owners in an expanded area around the former Exide battery recycling plant have begun to receive notice that their yards may be contaminated with lead, according to the state agency overseeing the cleanup process.
This is the kickoff of the second phase of the work to remediate homes contaminated by the Vernon-based smelter, which was in operation for decades before the state shut it down in 2013.
The Departmentof Toxic Substances Control said in August that the impacted area was much larger than originally thought - reaching 1.7 miles around the plant and potentially affecting up to 10,000 homes in East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Maywood and Commerce.
The agency says so far it has sent out 2,800 letters and consent forms, in English and Spanish, to property owners in the expanded area. Those homes were given priority based on wind patterns, according to a spokesman.
Community activists say the letter isn’t sufficient, based on their experience during the first phase of the cleanup in the area closest to the Vernon plant. As they did then, the activists are going door-to-door to help people sign up for the testing.
That first phase involved crews cleaning up nearly 200 homes closer to the plant in Boyle Heights and Maywood. Most of those homes have had their yards cleaned but activists say that work is incomplete because most of the interiors of the homes have not yet been cleaned.
In the expanded area, the state says it’s getting ready to start cleaning lead from the soil at 50 homes where sampling had shown the highest lead levels, adding that it expects crews to finish that part of the effort by the end of the year.
Some community activists and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis have criticized the Department of Toxic Substances Control's handling of the cleanup, saying things are moving too slowly.