State releases plan to clean lead contamination from 2,500 parcels near closed battery recycler Exide

Lead will be removed from the soil of 2,500 of the worst contaminated residential properties including dozens of child-care centers near a shuttered battery recycling plant under a plan released Thursday by state regulators.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control plan sets in motion the next two years of a massive cleanup project spanning more than 10,000 properties across seven southeast Los Angeles communities around the Exide Technologies facility.

Crews have so far tested more than 8,200 yards, with more than 95% exceeding California’s 80 parts per million health standard for residential soil.

Based on sampling results released Thursday on 7,011 of those parcels, about 27% would qualify for cleanup under the plan, which has new guidelines for which properties will be cleaned based on lead contamination levels.

Among those slated for cleanup are 46 child-care centers, five private schools and two parks in the cleanup zone extending 1.7 miles from the former plant.

To date, 261 properties have been cleaned since elevated levels of the poisonous metal were first discovered in neighborhoods near the plant more than three years ago, according to the department.

There is no specific start date for the next phase of cleanup, but department officials said work would begin after a contractor is selected in August.

Lead, a potent neurotoxin that can cause permanent developmental harm to children, spewed for decades from the Vernon plant. Georgia-based Exide agreed to shut it down permanently in March 2015 in a deal with federal prosecutors.

The department has not backed down from its commitment to clean soil from each of the 2,500 properties until lead no longer exceeds a concentration of 80 ppm, Director Barbara Lee said. She said the ability to clean the remaining homes “depends entirely on available funding.”

Lee said the department is working with the state attorney general’s office to recover cleanup costs and “is vigorously pursuing Exide as a responsible party.”

For now, the plan is limited to how many properties can be cleaned using $176.6 million in public funds set aside for the project in legislation signed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The cleanup is the largest of residential homes ever in California.

Times staff writer Ben Poston contributed to this report.

tony.barboza@latimes.com

@tonybarboza


UPDATES:

July 7, 6:25 p.m.: This article was updated to clarify comments by DTSC Director Barbara Lee.

This article was originally published July 6 at 8:20 p.m.

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