BOYLE HEIGHTS (CBSLA.com) — A Vernon woman has opened up to CBS2/KCAL9 about what it’s like raising her son in a home surrounded by soil known to be contaminated with lead.
Terry Cano’s home is one of 147 tested in an expanded area that encompasses as many as 2,000 homes surrounding the former Exide battery recycling facility.
“It’s terrifying,” Cano said, concerned for her child. “I don’t want to see an ounce of dirt on him … it’s toxic, it’s literally toxic. So when I see dirt I see toxic chemicals on his skin.”
Last year, soil testing revealed widespread contamination requiring immediate soil removal in two areas.
The state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) used a flow chart to guide the initial clean-up. Any home with a single soil sample containing 1,000 parts-per-million or more of lead close to the surface, or two samples at any depth, was considered a top priority and immediate soil removal was required.
In May, Cano received the results for her home in the expanded area, designated on the map as ENA-27.
The results? One sample close to the surface in the exposed soil on the side of her house was one-and-a-half times the amount that required immediate action. It was 1,550 parts per million.
And three other samples within three inches of the surface were well over 1,000. Under the original protocols, her home would require immediate soil removal.
More than two months later she’s still living within the contamination, however, and she’s waiting for answers.
“Since we received those results I have yet to hear personally from DTSC regarding any clean-up, regarding any further concerns regarding my property,” Cano said.
Cano this week joined other members of the communities surrounding Exide in a meeting with the DTSC’s newly confirmed director Barbara Lee.
Lee told the residents only one of the 147 tested homes had lead levels that may require immediate clean-up.
“For the other properties we’re continuing our analysis,” she said.
But CBS2/KCAL9’s review of the test results reveal at least 40 homes qualify as needing immediate clean-up under the DTSC’s original protocols — including Terry Cano’s home.
“We haven’t made a decision on how to approach the remediation in the expanded areas yet,” she said.
After the meeting, Lee refused to elaborate.
L.A. County Director of Environmental Health Angelo Bellomo said he agrees with experts CBS2/KCAL9 has consulted, who say the contamination in the expanded area is equal to the contamination found in the original small test areas.
Bellamo confirmed his department is looking at the potential of cleaning up thousands of homes.
“We can’t give up,” he said. ” … We’re going to continue to work with the state so that we come up with a clean-up plan that is responsive to the health and safety interests of that community.”
“It’s probably one of the most significant problems we’ve found within the state of California,” he continued. “I can’t recall on where the risk assessment indicated such a high level of risk and where the area potentially requiring clean-up is so vast.”
Cano says she grew up in this home, where she now raises her son. She says it breaks her heart when she watches the children playing in the neighborhood.
“Where I used to love to sit on the front porch and watch all the kids play, now I don’t even want to look outside because where other people might see that they’re playing outside and in the dirt, I see them playing in contaminated soil. And it upsets me,” she said.
Lee says as of now none of the homes in the expanded area are being cleaned, and she says there is no immediate threat to the community.
Cano is more than 650 homeowners who have filed a claim against the DTSC asking for $10 billion in damages.