Community activists were honored on Friday for their role in the effort to expand testing and cleanup at the now-shuttered battery recycling plant in Vernon.
State and city officials hailed those involved in years of community activism at a press conference at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights after the state recently proposed $176.6 million in funds to clean up contaminated soil near the plant.
"Residents like those at Resurrection Church and others have sacrificed so much - some through family death and illnesses," said Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar in a statement. "We would not be here at this momentous period in the long storied history of Boyle Heights and the surrounding communities without the resident activists who simply would not let any of us forget the tragedy and injustice that occurred."
The funding plan, proposed by, California Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday, would expedite and expand testing and cleanup of homes, schools, daycares and parks near the plant. The testing would be done in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Commerce, Bell, Huntington Park and Maywood.
In October, the Board of Supervisors approved a $2 million funding request by Supervisor Hilda Solis to help speed the cleanup of contaminated soil, saying "the state continues to drag its feet."
The lead-acid battery recycling plant agreed to permanently close in March, and pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods.
The plant, which produced a host of hazardous wastes, including lead, arsenic and benzene, operated for 33 years without a permanent permit.
Since detecting lead contamination in the soil of homes near Exide two years ago, efforts to upgrade the equipment and safety procedures repeatedly failed to meet environmental standards. The state Department of Toxic Substances Control has also conducted a number of tests and cleanups.
As many as 1,000 homes may be found to have toxicity concentrated enough to qualify as hazardous waste, and the state has estimated that 5,000-10,000 homes may ultimately require some cleanup.
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. A public health spokesman has also cited the increased risk of cancer linked to other chemicals once emitted by the plant.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Supervisor Hilda Solis were among those in attendance at the ceremony.
Officials said they are committed to working closely with Brown's administration on community outreach to determine risk and get the cleanup done as quickly as possible.