EXIDE VERNON BREAKING NEWS (Updated): 2/3 of results from second round of soil sampling in neighborhoods near contaminated Exide lead smelter show lead levels above safe standards – like in first round of sampling in December — By May 15, Exide must present DTSC plan for safe removal of buildings on smelter site and for the clean up of hazardous waste, including soil and groundwater contamination
CBS LOS ANGELES
Results From More Soil Sampling Near Now-Closed Exide Plant Released
Dozens of residents in the area gathered at Resurrection Church in Los Angeles to hear the results of more soil sampling.
Soil from 146 properties was tested, including Terry Cano’s, whose soil tested above 1,000 parts per million. A healthy level is below 100.
“I’m scared because I have a child and I’ve lived there my whole life,” Cano said.
The Department of Toxic Substances Control found that one-third of the samples tested were within the safe level but two-thirds were above that.
DTSC experts say their findings are troubling.
“We want to go back and try to figure out why we have that kind of number. Why is it all over the place? We didn’t see a clear pattern,” Rizgar Ghazi of DTSC said.
The testing marks the second round of sampling. In December, the DTSC says 74 properties were cleaned up after the agency found high levels of lead.
Exide shut down its battery recycling operations in March. The company has admitted that it illegally stored, shipped, and disposed of hazardous waste and were ordered to set aside nearly $40 million for the cleanup and closure.
The company already faces many lawsuits, including one that alleges a number of nearby residents died due to the pollution.
As of now, the DTSC says there’s no date of when they’ll start cleaning up the properties just tested, including Cano’s.
“We want to know what’s the next step for us,” Cano said.
Cleanup and removal of the Exide plant is expected to start in the spring of 2016 and take two years. By next week, they must present a plan on how they’ll safely do that.
DTSC Discloses Soil Sampling Results to Residents
Agency expected to hold additional meetings.
By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer
Over 8,600 soil samples taken from properties north and south of the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon provided no indication that there is a defined pattern of lead distribution in the area, according to officials from the Department of Toxic Substances Control.
Both low and high concentrations of lead – a chemical known to cause neurological damage – were found throughout the 146 residential properties tested in the expanded assessment area, according to the data used to see how far lead concentrations extend from the plant site.
“We need to continue to do our homework,” said Rizgar Ghazi, division chief of permitting at DTSC. But “we still hold Exide responsible,” he assured EGP. “We are just trying to see what Exide is responsible for and make them clean it up.”
The testing was conducted as part of DTSC’s 2013 stipulation order with Exide, which requires the company to test and cleanup any contamination caused by their emissions.
In March, the U.S. Attorney’s Office struck a deal with Exide to close the Vernon plant in lieu of facing criminal charges related to decades of hazardous waste violations and exposing over 110,000 eastside residents to cancer-causing emissions.
On Wednesday night, DTSC officials met one-on-one with residents whose homes have already been tested for lead to explain the results of those tests.
Saturday meetings have been planned for later in the month and in early June to accommodate residents who could not attend Wednesday’s meeting.
“We are working in a very complex environment,” said Ghazi. “This is the first of a series of meetings,” he told EGP.
The additional data was collected late last year when the state agency began cleaning up some of the properties in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and Maywood that had previously been tested for contaminated soil. According to DTSC, 60 to 80 samples, taken at different depths and increments, were obtained from each property.
Ghazi said the agency did not find any concentrations of lead “that would constitute a danger.”
He told EGP that the industrial landscape in eastside communities, which includes a high number of freeways, rail yards and other similar industries, has contributed to the concentrations of metals and chemicals in the area.
In late 2013, testing began in the original assessment area that included 217 residential properties. As of last week, the cleanup at 76 homes has been completed and over 3,900 tons of soil removed from the properties.
DTSC officials expanded the original assessment area an additional mile from both the northern and southern borders based on modules prepared by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to determined which areas would most likely be impacted by Exide emissions.
Last month, eastside residents complained to DTSC Director Barbara Lee that the assessment area should be enlarged to include more communities near the Vernon plant.
Responding to complaints from residents that their concerns have fallen on deaf ears over the years, DTSC has announced the formation of an advisory committee to oversee the agency’s closure of the Exide plant and cleanup of surrounding residential properties.
DTSC is currently accepting applications from people interested in serving on the committee, however the size of the committee has not yet been decided.
Ghazi told EGP the committee will be all-inclusive and there are no requirements for members. However, he stressed the agency would prefer residents who live in the assessment area.
“This partnership will provide an open dialogue for the community to be apart of the process,” he said.
By May 15, Exide must submit to DTSC its plan for safely removing buildings on the site and for the clean up of hazardous waste, including soil and groundwater contamination.
DTSC will review the plan to determine if there are any deficiencies that need to be addressed. Once approved, the agency will prepare a CEQA document and present the draft plan to the public.
DTSC expects to hold public hearings on the closure plan and CEQA document by Fall 2015.
The demolition of the buildings and structures at the Exide plant is expected to begin Spring 2016 and continue for 19 to 24 months.