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Maps show lead concentration near Exide

VERNON — State environmental regulators March 2 released maps identifying more than 2,000 properties near the former Exide battery recycling plant with elevated lead concentrations in the soil, providing a blueprint for cleanup operations.

The interactive maps were based on tests conducted by the Department of Toxic Substances Control at 8,500 properties within 1.7 miles of the shuttered facility.

“These maps clearly illustrate the level of lead contamination that is near the Exide facility,” said Barbara Lee, director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. “We will now use this data to address and clean those parcels with the highest levels of contamination.”

In 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown approved $176.6 million to test soil at properties near the plant and conduct cleanup operations at as many as 2,500 properties. Some Los Angeles County officials have been critical of Department of Toxic Substances Control for what they called unnecessary delays in the testing and cleanup process.

The release of lead-concentration maps is considered a key step in prioritizing properties for cleanup.

Department officials said earlier the scope of work focuses on homes with soil lead concentrations of 400 parts per million or more, those with hot spot concentrations of 1,000 part per million or more, and daycare and child care centers with concentrations of 80 parts per million or more.

According to the maps and accompanying data, 1,930 properties were found to have lead concentrations of 400 parts per million or more, while another 175 had hot spots of 1,000 parts per million. The maps also showed 58 schools, parks and day care centers in the area that will be prioritized for cleanup.

The cleanup operation is the largest undertaken by the state in history.

According to the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the state is moving forward immediately with cleanup efforts at the 2,500 properties found with the highest lead concentrations. Exide officials will be required under a court order to pay for the cleaning work.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control is conducting community meetings to discuss the testing results and the cleanup effort. Those meetings are scheduled for: noon March 17 at El Camino Real Library, 4264 Whittier Blvd., East Los Angeles; 5:30 p.m. March 19 at Huntington Park Library, 6518 Miles Ave.; and 3 p.m. March 21 at Robert L. Stevenson Library, 803 Spence St., Boyle Heights.

The Exide plant, which opened in 1922, was allowed to keep operating under a temporary permit for 33 years, despite continuing environmental violations. It was permanently closed in March 2015.