Federal officials finalizing cleanup plans for West Atlanta lead contamination

The U.S. EPA added the Westside Lead Superfund site, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Vine City and English Avenue, to its national priorities list earlier this year.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing its final cleanup plan for the Superfund site encompassing West Atlanta neighborhoods that are contaminated with lead.

About 2,000 properties in English Avenue and Vine City are included in the area of the Westside Lead Superfund Site. Lead, which is especially dangerous for children, has been found at dangerously high levels in some yards there. 

The EPA says the best course of action is to excavate the soil from the contaminated places, put that soil in a landfill, then put clean soil back. 

That’s the approach the agency has been taking already. About half the properties in the area have been tested for lead. Just over 400 of those required cleanups, according to the EPA. Approximately 150 of those properties have now had their soil removed and replaced. 

The EPA expects the whole process to take six years to finish and cost close to $50 million.

The problem was initially discovered by Emory University researchers collaborating with community members in 2018, but the lead has potentially been there for more than a century, according to the EPA, dating back to when waste from foundries was used as fill in low-lying areas.

The agency started its cleanup work in early-2020, and the site was added to the Superfund National Priorities List earlier this year, making it eligible for more funding for cleanup.

The EPA is holding a virtual public comment session over Zoom about its plan next month.