Frequently Asked Questions

 

Sampling and Results

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Q. What are the “Expanded Areas,” and why were they sampled?
A.

The Expanded Areas are two residential neighborhoods near the Exide Technologies facility in Vernon and together make up the second area tested for possible lead contamination from the Exide plant. They are called "Expanded Areas" because DTSC ordered Exide to expand testing beyond two smaller "Assessment Areas" that already are being cleaned up. 

Q. What are the results of preliminary sampling in the Expanded Areas?
A.

Preliminary sampling results did not show any simple patterns that we would have expected to see such as decreasing concentrations of lead the farther we got from the facility or decreasing concentrations the deeper we sampled at a location. This prompted DTSC to analyze the data more deeply and compare it with other metals concentrations.

The preliminary result of this additional analysis estimates that the extent of lead contamination from Exide emissions reaches between 1.3 miles to 1.7 miles from the Vernon facility. This area is estimated to have between 5,000 and 10,000 residential properties with the potential for lead contamination. We are doing more sampling and analyzing data to refine the outer extent of contamination.

Q. When will DTSC start additional sampling?
A.

DTSC is preparing a work plan, which we will share with the Technical Advisor to review and present to the Exide Advisory Group for feedback. We will identify a contractor who will begin sampling within two weeks after we receive the Advisory Group's recommendations.

More on the Advisory Group can be found here: https://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/Projects/ExideAdvisory.cfm

 

Q. Are any of the results at emergency levels?
A.

No. None of the properties sampled so far require immediate cleanup.

Q. How did DTSC determine no immediate response is necessary?
A.

DTSC relied on the same criteria the US Environmental Protection Agency uses to determine the need for immediate response and added more health-protective approaches in assessing lead risks in the expanded area. Some examples:

USEPA guidance recommends taking five samples in each yard.DTSC went far above that recommendation and took an average of 60 soil samples from each yard.

USEPA guidance recommends the use of composite sampling (where multiple soil samples are combined into one sample and then analyzed). Instead, DTSC used discrete sampling (where each individual sample from a yard is analyzed). DTSC's approach is more rigorous in locating high levels of lead in a yard, if they exist.

Q. Were parks in the Expanded Area sampled?
A.

Yes, parks were sampled. The results do not show lead levels that require cleanup.

Q. Were schools sampled in the Expanded Area?
A.

17 schools have been tested in the Expanded Areas, and the testing results have been shared on our website at: http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/Projects/upload/School-Handout.pdf 

Q. What are the background levels for lead around the Exide facility?
A.

Los Angeles County Public Health officials cite 280 parts per million in the north and 230-250 in the south.

Q. When trying to figure the extent of contamination from Exide, why does DTSC start sampling close to the facility and work its way out?
A.

The investigation of any site begins with the facility itself to identify the nature of contamination. Subsequently, the investigation is expanded outward to identify the extent of contamination. Typically, contamination tapers off further away from the source. This is standard practice in any investigation and any site cleanup. 

Q. Why did DTSC analyze soil samples for other metals?
A.

Some metals, such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, nickel, and zinc are commonly associated with secondary lead-smelting operations. Antimony in particular is characteristic to battery smelting operations since lead-acid batteries contain lead alloy that contains about 5% antimony.

Q. Does DTSC have sampling results from the schools that were tested in the Expanded area?
A.

The results are on the DTSC web site. Here is a link:

 https://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/Projects/upload/School-Handout.pdf


Residential Cleanup

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Q. When will DTSC start cleaning up properties in the Expanded Areas?
A.

We could start in November after getting input from the Advisory Group.

Q. How long does it take to clean up a property?
A.

Each property in the initial Assessment Areas has averaged up to five days to clean up; depending on the size of the yard at each property.

Q. Where will the cleanup start in the Expanded Areas?
A.

We anticipate starting with 38 Expanded Area properties with at least one location with a lead level over 1,000 parts per million in the top 3 inches of the soil. Those properties are among 146 that were randomly sampled to get a sense of the extent of contamination.

Q. What if, once you start cleaning up the most contaminated properties you find some that are even more contaminated? Will the most contaminated properties be cleaned up first?
A.

We will prioritize cleanup based on the most contaminated properties and homes with children or pregnant women. A prioritization plan is being designed now and will be shared with Advisory Group for input.

Q. Is cleanup of the Expanded Areas subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?
A.

Yes, DTSC must comply with the CEQA cleanup the Expanded Areas. CEQA requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions, and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.

Q. How long will the CEQA process take?
A.

DTSC will prepare an"Initial Study" to determine the impacts of cleaning up properties in the 1.3-mile to 1.7-mile radius of the Exide facility. The initial study will take about 45 days to prepare and will inform the Department of what documents we need to prepare for CEQA compliance.  

Q. Does DTSC have to wait until CEQA is complete to start sampling or to start cleanup?
A.

We will start sampling immediately after we receiving input from our Exide Advisory Group. CEQA approval is required by law before cleanup can start on the properties, but not for investigative sampling.

 

Q. Is DTSC coordinating its response with the Governor and the federal government?
A.

 Yes, DTSC is asking local, state, and federal agencies to provide expertise and resources. For example, DTSC has consulted with US EPA about a lead cleanup it oversaw that involved several thousand homes in Omaha, Neb. More information on that project is available at: http://www.epa.gov/region07/cleanup/npl_files/nesfn0703481.pdf

Q. Who is responsible for testing soil in parkways and for cleaning up contamination if it’s found?
A.

DTSC's primary focus is on cleaning up residential properties where the potential exposure risk to residents is greatest. When and if parkways become part of the larger overall cleanup efforts, DTSC will get access from local agencies to perform the sampling and will get their input on how to mitigate the contamination if found.

Q. Where is the contaminated soil from neighborhoods going when it is removed?
A.

The contaminated soil is currently being taken to a landfill in La Paz County, Arizona that is licensed to accept and dispose of that type of waste.

Q. Where is the new soil coming from for yards that are being cleaned up?
A.

Yards are being replaced with clean top soil that has been sampled to ensure it is not contaminated. Top soil comes from Earthworks Soil Amendments Inc. of Riverside. Backfill soil comes from Hanson Aggregates of Irwindale. 


Health Concerns

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Q. What can residents do to protect themselves from lead until their property is cleaned up?
A.

None of the properties sampled so far requires immediate cleanup. Families can take steps to reduce exposure, including, but not limited to the following:

*Avoid areas of bare soil or cover the areas of bare soil

*Remove shoes before going into the home

*Wash hands after coming in from outside

*Wash fruits and vegetables from the yard before eating them


Q. Do other chemicals from Exide, such as antimony or arsenic, threaten my health?
A.

 Other metals such as antimony, cadmium, and arsenic were found very near the Exide facility. The concentrations of these metals and the presence of elevated lead prompted DTSC to order Exide to immediately clean up the areas nearest the facility. This work has been completed and additional sampling is on-going. The early results of that sampling show that these other metals are well below the California Human Health Screening Levels (or CHHSSLs). In other words, not at levels that pose a threat to public health.

Q. Why is DTSC encouraging residents living close to the Exide facility to have their blood tested for lead?
A.

Blood testing is a good indicator of recent exposure to lead. It also enables experts to identify potential "hot spots" and expedite cleanup efforts to stop any further exposure. Blood testing is currently offered free of charge to residents in a select area surrounding the Exide facility. Contact the Los Angeles County Public Health Department for more information: 844-888-2290.


Paying for Sampling and Cleanup

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Q. How much does it cost to clean up a residential property?
A.

Cleanup of properties in the initial Assessment Areas has cost about $49,000 per property on average. The costs drop as efficiencies are found.
More information on the Assessment Areas cleanup can be found at https://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/Projects/UpdateExideSuspension.cfm

Q. How much money is available for cleaning and additional sampling?
A.

DTSC has secured $7 million from the Department's Toxic Substances Control Account (TSCA) - $3 million will be used to clean up of properties with highest contamination based on testing we already have done. The rest of the funds will be used to test additional properties in the Expanded Areas to identify other properties that need to be cleaned up.

This additional sampling is necessary to determine the location and concentration of lead deposits, if any, before we can begin cleaning up a property. Testing also helps us prioritize the cleanup of properties with highest contamination and greatest potential for risk of exposure.

Q. Media accounts claim the complete cleanup will cost more than $150 million. Where is that money going to come from?
A.

DTSC remains committed to protecting public health and the environment and is working diligently to identify additional sources for necessary funds. The Department will work with other federal, state and local agencies to leverage expertise and resources to recover the costs of the cleanup.

Q. Initially, DTSC said Exide would have to clean up and pay for all of its contamination. Is that still true?
A.

DTSC will hold Exide responsible for the contamination it has caused. We also will document our findings and identify other possible sources of lead contamination in the communities.

Q. Exide has said its contamination doesn’t reach very far. How can DTSC prove Exide is responsible for the contamination?
A.

Preliminary results of our analysis show that Exide's contamination extends approximately 1.7 miles from the facility. Public health is our priority. Our immediate plan is to initiate cleanups and recover our costs later from all responsible parties, including Exide.

Q. Are other parties responsible for lead contamination in addition to Exide?
A.

DTSC will identify potential sources of lead contamination and use all legal avenues to recover costs from parties that caused lead contamination in the communities.


Closure and Non-Residential Cleanup

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Q. What other cleanups are associated with the Exide site?
A.

DTSC is overseeing sampling at the Exide facility to identify the nature and extent of contamination from their operations. We also are sampling in the industrial neighborhood adjacent or near the facility to determine what cleanup is needed. These are unrelated to the cleanups in the residential areas.

Q. What is the status of the closure and cleanup of the Exide facility?
A.

Exide voluntarily stopped operating the plantafter DTSC notified the company that it would deny a permit application. The company also agreed to follow DTSC's guidelines to close and cleanup the plant or risk possible prosecution by the U.S. Attorney General.

Exide submitted a proposed closure plan to DTSC. We reviewed it and provided comments and a Notice of Deficiencies to Exide. On July 28, 2015, Exide sent DTSC a revised Closure Plan. We are reviewing that plan. The Technical Advisor for the Community is also reviewing this revised Closure Plan, and it was presented to the Advisory Group for feedback. Next it will go out for public review and comment.

DTSC will ensure that Exide's Vernon plant is safely closed and the property is cleaned up to remove any future threat of exposure to the neighboring communities.

Q. What contractors and companies are involved in closing the Exide facility?
A.

 A current list can be found on the DTSC website; however, additional contractors and companies will be added by Exide as bids are awarded. Here is a link:  https://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/Projects/upload/Contractors-for-Exide.pdf

 

Q. Where will toxic waste from the Exide plant be taken after it is removed?
A.

 Where the waste is taken depends on what kind of waste it is. Specific disposal locations will be included in the final Closure Plan. The public will get to review the draft Closure Plan and make comments before DTSC approves a final plan.


Advisory Group and Technical Advisor

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Q. What is the role of the Exide Advisory Group?
A.

The Advisory Group is made up of people with different viewpoints from regulatory agencies, local governments, academia, advocacy groups, and community representatives from areas around the Exide facility. The Advisory Group gives DTSC and other oversight agencies a way to include the community in the decision making process. It also helps keep the communities informed about sampling data, plans, and work done throughout the closure and cleanup process.

Q. What is the role of the technical advisor?
A.

The technical advisor helps community members interpret data and technical reports, and provides recommendations on cleanup and closure of the Exide facility to the community.