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Coping with lead contamination in California

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2022 | Environmental Law

Most of our local corporations are in business to provide products and services that improve the lives of Californians in some way. However, there can be unintended consequences when industrial concerns adversely impact public health and safety.

Such is the case with Exide Technologies, a battery recycling facility, and the recent lead contamination problem in Vernon and the surrounding areas.

Exide and lead contamination

Exide Technologies filed for bankruptcy and closed in 2015. According to the terms of their court case, the company was allowed to abandon the plant and leave the environmental cleanup to the state of California.

While it was in operation, the company processed approximately 120,000 tons of lead each year. This material originated in lead-based batteries used to power vehicles and other products.

However, the company was ordered to cease operations after lead contamination was detected in soil samples of property surrounding the facility. The area impacted encompasses 1.7 miles around the recycling plant and could impact up to 10,000 homes, schools, and businesses.

Government responsibility and environmental law

When a company creates a public safety hazard, whether intentional or not, it is an environmental law issue. Although the corporation itself could be liable for damages if they are found at fault, the government has a duty to assist residents and visitors who have been adversely impacted.

As such, The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is testing properties for lead contamination in the following locations:

  • Boyle Heights
  • East Los Angeles
  • Commerce
  • Huntington Park
  • Bell
  • Vernon
  • Maywood

Local public health services are also offering free blood testing for lead exposure.

What residents can do to protect themselves

The local government is doing what it can to keep residents safe. You can do your part by taking the following precautions to protect yourself and your family until this crisis is over:

  • Keep your home free of dust, especially if you have a lot of foot traffic from outside
  • Remove shoes before entering homes and buildings to avoid tracking soil
  • Wash your hands and face, and make sure your children do the same, after being outside or playing with household pets
  • Cover any outdoor areas that have exposed soil and relocate children’s recreation areas away from exposed soil

It’s also a good idea to eat foods that are rich in nutrients that decrease lead absorption, especially calcium and iron.

In the meantime, outreach and abatement continue throughout the affected area.