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Lead Contamination Discovered at Up to 10,000 Homes in Southeast L.A. County

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Workers remove topsoil in March 2015 from homes in Boyle Heights that may have been contaminated by lead that possibly came from Exide Technologies, a battery recycling plant in Vernon. (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Soil testing has found that lead contamination from a Vernon battery recycling plant extends over a much larger area than previously estimated, possibly reaching as many as 10,000 homes in southeast Los Angeles County, state environmental officials said Friday.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control had previously estimated a few hundred homes in Boyle Heights and Maywood would require cleanup after decades of air pollution from the now-closed Exide Technologies facility.

The department now believes that the facility’s lead emissions tainted soil up to 1.7 miles downwind, potentially requiring a much more expensive cleanup of 5,000 to 10,000 properties, director Barbara Lee said in a conference call with reporters.

The preliminary results are based on soil samples taken from 146 properties spread across a two-square mile area, including Boyle Heights, Maywood, Huntington Park and East Los Angeles, which were used to model what concentrations are likely to exist at thousand of other homes.

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