BOYLE HEIGHTS (CBSLA.com) — A handful of elected officials on Saturday encouraged Boyle Heights residents living near the now-closed Exide battery plant to to sign up to have their properties tested for lead contamination.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Hilda Solis, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra and other officials took part in the neighborhood walk and resource fair.
The County Department of Public Health also offered free on-site blood testing.
Residents who were unable to make today’s events can access services — including blood testing — at a drop-in center at the Benjamin Franklin Library at 2200 E. First Street. The center will be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on March 19, April 2 and April 9.
Those possibly affected by the Exide contamination are also encouraged to visit exidecleanup.lacity.org for more information.
The 15-acre Exide plant permanently closed in March 2015, but “left behind a legacy of environmental contamination in Maywood, Huntington Park, Boyle Heights, Commerce and East Los Angeles” reaching out in about a 1.75-mile radius, according to Cynthia Harding, the Public Health Department’s interim director.
Though gaseous plant emissions are no longer an issue, lead contamination in the soil, which can cause developmental delays and cognitive impairments, remains a concern.
The county estimates that up to 10,000 homes could have lead contamination, with about 10 percent of those expected to show levels qualifying as hazardous waste.
L.A.’s sanitation bureau is joining the state Department of Toxic Substances Control in testing soil samples gathered in Boyle Heights, and will also test water and green waste to monitor contamination levels. When testing is complete, multiple city agencies will expedite permit processing so that cleanup can begin as soon as possible.
When Exide agreed to close the lead-acid battery recycling plant, it committed to pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup.
As of last August, Exide, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, had paid $9 million into a trust and another $5 million was due to be paid by March 2020, according to state officials.
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