EPA widens lead testing area in Atlanta

ATLANTA, Ga. — The Environmental Protection Agency has widened its lead soil testing along Atlanta’s Westside to include twice as many properties.

The scope of the testing now includes 1,000 properties, up from the original 368 in late 2019. Both areas are highlighted in the map below:

Channel 2 Action News first reported on the testing last year, when the EPA started its probe. It was a result of notification from Dr. Eri Saikawa, an Emory University researcher, who detected elevated lead levels in the area in 2018.

Since testing began, the city notes 37% of the original properties have been sampled, with 71 of them reading for elevated lead levels of 400 ppm or more. Those properties are scheduled for cleanup, per an information sheet from District 3 Councilman Antonio Brown.

“The reality is there was no EPA back in the days when we were using slack, so as serious as an issue this is, it’s also an issue that can remediated and addressed and fixed,” Brown told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr.

Brown, who is organizing a community town hall with the EPA next month, is encouraging homeowners to sign off on waivers that allow their soil to be tested.

Residents told Carr they’re eager to learn whether their properties are contaminated, and how quickly any issues can be addressed.

“Something’s going on and I hope sooner or later we get to the bottom of it,” said one man, a Sunset Avenue resident who did not want to be identified. “If not we’re gonna pay the price the hard way.”

“I think they need to inform the public, the people, what the risks are so our kids, everybody, will know,” said Milton Weeden, who lives in veteran’s home along Sunset.

On Tuesday, Saikawa noted she’d like to see more children tested for lead. Brown said he’s hoping the city will have a good turnout at the town hall, which is still being planned.

“As a district council person I’m asking them to trust me,” Brown said when asked about skeptical residents who have not signed off on testing. “I want them to know that I would never put a resident in a position, or allow a city to put a resident in a position, to be displaced because of an issues like lead.”