DTSC Discloses Soil Sampling Results to Residents

Agency expected to hold additional meetings.

By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer

Over 8,600 soil samples taken from properties north and south of the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon provided no indication that there is a defined pattern of lead distribution in the area, according to officials from the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Both low and high concentrations of lead – a chemical known to cause neurological damage – were found throughout the 146 residential properties tested in the expanded assessment area, according to the data used to see how far lead concentrations extend from the plant site.

“We need to continue to do our homework,” said Rizgar Ghazi, division chief of permitting at DTSC. But “we still hold Exide responsible,” he assured EGP. “We are just trying to see what Exide is responsible for and make them clean it up.”

The testing was conducted as part of DTSC’s 2013 stipulation order with Exide, which requires the company to test and cleanup any contamination caused by their emissions.

Soil removal and remediation was completed at 67 homes near the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon.  (DTSC)

Soil removal and remediation was completed at 67 homes near the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon. (DTSC)

In March, the U.S. Attorney’s Office struck a deal with Exide to close the Vernon plant in lieu of facing criminal charges related to decades of hazardous waste violations and exposing over 110,000 eastside residents to cancer-causing emissions.

On Wednesday night, DTSC officials met one-on-one with residents whose homes have already been tested for lead to explain the results of those tests.

Saturday meetings have been planned for later in the month and in early June to accommodate residents who could not attend Wednesday’s meeting.

“We are working in a very complex environment,” said Ghazi. “This is the first of a series of meetings,” he told EGP.

The additional data was collected late last year when the state agency began cleaning up some of the properties in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and Maywood that had previously been tested for contaminated soil. According to DTSC, 60 to 80 samples, taken at different depths and increments, were obtained from each property.

Ghazi said the agency did not find any concentrations of lead “that would constitute a danger.”

He told EGP that the industrial landscape in eastside communities, which includes a high number of freeways, rail yards and other similar industries, has contributed to the concentrations of metals and chemicals in the area.

In late 2013, testing began in the original assessment area that included 217 residential properties. As of last week, the cleanup at 76 homes has been completed and over 3,900 tons of soil removed from the properties.

DTSC officials expanded the original assessment area an additional mile from both the northern and southern borders based on modules prepared by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to determined which areas would most likely be impacted by Exide emissions.

Last month, eastside residents complained to DTSC Director Barbara Lee that the assessment area should be enlarged to include more communities near the Vernon plant.

Responding to complaints from residents that their concerns have fallen on deaf ears over the years, DTSC has announced the formation of an advisory committee to oversee the agency’s closure of the Exide plant and cleanup of surrounding residential properties.

DTSC is currently accepting applications from people interested in serving on the committee, however the size of the committee has not yet been decided.

Ghazi told EGP the committee will be all-inclusive and there are no requirements for members. However, he stressed the agency would prefer residents who live in the assessment area.

“This partnership will provide an open dialogue for the community to be apart of the process,” he said.

By May 15, Exide must submit to DTSC its plan for safely removing buildings on the site and for the clean up of hazardous waste, including soil and groundwater contamination.

DTSC will review the plan to determine if there are any deficiencies that need to be addressed. Once approved, the agency will prepare a CEQA document and present the draft plan to the public.

DTSC expects to hold public hearings on the closure plan and CEQA document by Fall 2015.

The demolition of the buildings and structures at the Exide plant is expected to begin Spring 2016 and continue for 19 to 24 months.

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May 7, 2015  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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