Mar 21, 2022 - News

Feds prioritize polluted properties in Atlanta's Westside

A sign in a front yard in Atlanta’s English Avenue neighborhood promoting soil sampling for the presence of lead
Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

The federal government has added an area with roughly 2,100 residential properties in English Avenue and Vine City — many with or thought to have elevated levels of lead in the soil — to its priority list of contaminated places to clean up.

Why it matters: The addition to the EPA’s National Priorities List opens the neighborhoods for federal funding to clean up the toxin, which the agency says likely came from foundries that once operated in the area.

  • Studies have linked lead exposure to developmental and health issues in babies and children and miscarriages and fertility issues in adults, the CDC says.

Catch up quick: In 2018, Eri Saikawa of Emory University found elevated levels of the toxin while studying the soil quality of urban gardens in the two historically Black neighborhoods just across the street from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

After testing surrounding parcels, the federal agency added the communities to its list of highly polluted places. The study area has since grown and could continue to expand, the agency says.

What’s been done: As of this month, the EPA says it has sampled 951 properties. Roughly 340 properties with alarming lead levels have been identified. 119 parcels have been cleaned up.

What they’re saying: “Our commitment is to no longer allow these communities to be looked past,” Daniel Blackman, the EPA’s regional administrator, said at a Friday news conference, the AJC reported.

What’s next: Saikawa tells Axios her lab and the Historic Westside Gardens are partnering on April 23 to provide neighborhood residents with free blood tests for heavy metals and other toxins.

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