Gov. Jerry Brown. Photo credit:
Gov. Jerry Brown. Photo credit:

Gov. Jerry Brown should appoint an independent expert to oversee a soil cleanup of potentially thousands of lead-contaminated homes surrounding a shuttered battery recycling plant in Vernon, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said.

Solis, who represents communities around the Exide Technologies plant, told the the Los Angeles Times that outside oversight is needed to ensure a swift cleanup of homes contaminated by decades of air pollution from the facility, and to overcome temptation by state officials and the company to delay action for financial reasons.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control, which is overseeing the cleanup of soil contaminated by the facility’s lead emissions, announced last week that soil testing shows the facility deposited toxic dust across a wider area of southeast L.A. County than previously estimated, possibly polluting as many as 10,000 homes.

Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems and diminished IQs in children, who can ingest the dust when they play in the dirt. Removing the metal from thousands of homes would become the largest cleanup of its kind in California and could ultimately cost hundreds of millions of dollars, according to The Times Friday.

Solis said the governor’s office must intervene to ensure the state toxic substances department acts with greater urgency and is able to secure funds to pay for the immediate cleanup of the 1,000 most contaminated properties.

“We can’t afford to wait another week, two weeks,” Solis told The Times in an interview. “We need immediate action.”

Her comments echoed the demands of community groups who accuse state toxics regulators of being slow to acknowledge the extent of contamination in their neighborhoods and of dragging their feet with the cleanup.

Over the last year, the department has removed and replaced lead- contaminated soil from the 146 homes closest to the plant in Maywood and Boyle Heights, at a cost of about $45,000 each, The Times reported.

There was no immediate response from the Governor’s Office.

—City News Service

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