LINCOLN HEIGHTS — They have no proof, but residents of the William Mead housing projects in Lincoln Heights are convinced that contaminated soil beneath their homes is killing them.
So about 100 residents gathered this week to urge the government not to rush through its $1.6-million cleanup. The state Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to begin soil removal on Monday, but protesters said their health worries are being ignored.
The projects, home to 1,400 residents, are nestled between train tracks and several factories east of downtown Los Angeles. The apartments, which opened in 1943, were built on the site of a former oil refinery.
The government cleanup calls for removing soil from the site of a now-closed baseball field and community lawns.
"The type of cleanup they will begin in May is like putting a Band-Aid over a much larger problem," said Suzana Tapia, of Communities for a Better Environment. She and others want the government to remove much more soil and to test outlying areas.
Cal/EPA spokesman Ron Baker said officials would consider testing surrounding areas, but had no plans to delay the cleanup.
The problem was first detected in 1994, when tests showed high concentrations of volatile organic compounds and other carcinogens in soil used for gardening and the baseball field. Several residents who have contracted cancer and other illnesses blame the contamination.