Officials Reach Out to Neighbors of Shuttered Vernon Plant Concerned About Lead Contamination

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Mayor Eric Garcetti chats with residents in Boyle Heights on March 12, 2016. (Credit: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

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A small army of volunteers led by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti went door-to-door Saturday to begin the task of assessing the extent of the lead contamination in thousands of homes, businesses and schools surrounding a shuttered battery-recycling plant east of downtown.

At each stop, residents were urged to sign agreements allowing state regulatory officials formal permission to test their yards and gardens for lead, arsenic and other toxins emitted into the air by the Exide Technologies facility in Vernon. Lead dust, a toxic metal, can cause developmental problems -- even at low levels -- with children and pregnant women at greatest risk.

No one turned down the requests in the affected communities of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Commerce, Bell, Huntington Park and Maywood, which had been pushing regulators for years to deal with pollution from the plant, which was processing 11 million used batteries a year when it closed last March.

"There is no question that this effort should have happened a long time ago,” Garcetti told a gathering of volunteers at Ramon Garcia Recreational Center in Boyle Heights. “But now it’s here. Today is about saving lives and taking action.

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