Environmental officials are expanding the area in west Atlanta where they’re testing for high lead levels in people’s yards, nearly doubling the number of properties in the neighborhoods of English Avenue and Vine City that they say need to be checked.
The EPA has been sampling soil in parts of those Atlanta neighborhoods for a few years, after finding dangerously high levels of lead in some places.
This week, the agency expanded the area, what it calls the Westside Lead Study Area, to include more than 2,000 properties in English Avenue and Vine City neighborhoods.
“We continued to sample inside our boundary and along our boundary lines, and the data showed that there are elevated levels and that an expansion was warranted,” said Leigh Lattimore, a remedial project manager for the EPA working on the Westside lead cleanup.
Lead is dangerous to children; it can harm their brains and nervous systems. Lattimore said the lead is likely left over from foundries that once operated in the area.
The EPA conducts testing for free. If a yard’s soil is contaminated enough to meet the EPA’s threshold for cleanup, the agency will remove and replace the soil for free, as well.
So far, the agency has sampled 558 properties in the study area. Of those, 215 required cleanup, and, out of those, 74 have been cleaned up.
“We’re still there. We’re still cleaning up. And we’re going to continue to be there to address the problem,” Lattimore said.
In a January virtual meeting, EPA officials said the pandemic had made it hard to reach people and to get signed permission to test their yards and to remove soil if necessary. A high number of out-of-state and out-of-country property owners, and of abandoned properties, add to the challenge.
Lattimore said the EPA is sending information and forms to authorize testing to residents of the area.
The EPA maintains a map to show what areas are included. Residents can also call the EPA with questions about lead in west Atlanta, at 678-662-8603.