Homes, Schools Near SoCal Battery Plant Exposed to Elevated Lead Levels

Exide Technologies had until March 21 to come up with a plan to protect children and pregnant women in the area

Elevated levels of lead were discovered in the soil of 39 homes and two schools near a battery recycling plant in Vernon, state officials announced Monday.

Test results confirmed the ground contamination near Exide Technologies at 2700 South Indiana St., the California Department of Toxic Substances Control said.

"I think it’s absurd, I think it’s very disappointing for the city and I think a lot of people are upset and I think it needs to get fixed right away," a resident in the affected area said.

Though officials said the lead levels weren't an immediate health threat, the company was ordered to perform more tests and come up with a plan to protect children and pregnant women in the area before March 21.

"We really believe that this could have a very negative potential health problem for our children and for pregnant women in the community, State Assembly Speaker John Perez said.
Residents near the troubled facility are being urged to keep their children away from bare soil, to wash their hands and to only grow vegetables in raised beds.

In a statement, Exide said it "will work cooperatively to conduct the requested additional sampling and the interim clean up measures. The health and safety of the community, as well as its workforce, are important to Exide and the company is committed to investing in the Vernon facility to further reduce emissions and protect public health."
In January, regional air quality officials sued Exide for $40 million, claiming the plant exposed people to cancer-causing chemicals such as arsenic.

"Department of Toxic Substance is actually listening this time, much in the same way they were last year when they shut the plant down," Perez said.

In April 2013, Exide Technologies was shut down by state officials after reports from air regulators that the facility failed to control airborne pollution.

According to the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the company had continuously been releasing hazardous waste into the soil through rotting underground pipes that were cracked and littered with debris. The pipes date back to the 1920s.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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