High lead levels found in soil at homes, school in Vernon


Residents are being warned not to let their children go near bare soil after elevated levels of lead were found in 39 homes as well as Salazar Park Head Start School.

Authorities say the nearby Exide Technologies plant appears to be the one to blame.

"If the children are playing in soil that has lead, of course it is a concern to everybody. What is it going to do to children in the future to anybody, to any person that comes here?" said Vernon resident Mary Solas.

Officials with the Department of Toxic Substance Control has ordered Exide to do more soil sampling.

This is the latest in a string of problems surrounding the plant. Back in January, regional air quality officials sued Exide for $40 million, saying the plant exposed people to cancer-causing chemicals such as arsenic. The plant has since reduced emissions, but this latest discovery has many wondering what will come next.

"Kids are innocent. They don't know, and the battery plant is aware of what's going on. They should stop and clean up the environment," said Eric Rodriguez, another Vernon resident.

The Department of Toxic Substance Control said the levels of lead are not an immediate health threat, but it is still urging people to keep children away from soil and wash their hands when they come inside.

The department gave Exide until March 21 to come up with a plan to protect people in the area.

In response, Exide said it is studying the department's response and will work cooperatively to conduct the additional sampling and the interim cleanup measures.

Lead is toxic to everyone, but unborn babies and young children are at greatest risk. In addition to cautioning residents to avoid bare soil, officials advise to wash any homegrown produce thoroughly before consumption and try to plant produce in raised planters rather than inside grounded soil.

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