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California and Coal Center Lead

Site Contact:
Jana Pezanowski
On-Scene Coordinator


Site Location:
2nd Street
California/Coal Center, PA 15419

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to closely review and act on the issues raised in the Wall Street Journal’s investigation of lead covered telecommunications cables across the U.S. As part of this work, EPA sampled soil for lead in an area near some telecommunications cables in Coal Center, PA and California, PA. EPA’s scientific review of the data and current conditions in the area indicate that there are no threats to the health of people nearby that would warrant an immediate EPA response action.


The results do show that some soil samples have lead concentrations above an EPA screening level of 400 parts per million. All areas tested were primarily from areas covered with grass. Well maintained grass provides a natural barrier to reduce exposure and a good cover to prevent soil dust from being easily kicked up. EPA’s assessment of the data takes into account that most of the areas sampled are covered with grass and are not where children gather for long periods of time.


EPA has established a national working group to consider next steps to ensure the public remains safe. These steps may include further analyses to better understand if the cables have released and continue to release lead. Any future actions will be done in coordination with state and local leaders, and the public will remain informed of any actions taken.


In addition to sampling, EPA has required major telecommunications companies to provide us with information needed to evaluate the nature and extent of releases or threatened releases of lead from telecommunications cables and equipment in this area, including results of inspections the companies have undertaken, as well as sampling results and data.


Background on EPA Sampling Effort 

EPA uses screening-level sampling to initially characterize soil lead concentrations. On August 3-5, 2023, EPA sampled soil in publicly accessible areas directly underneath lead-covered telecommunications cables and the opposite side between the road and the sidewalk in Coal Center and California, PA communities. EPA collected 31 surface soil samples from below the lead-covered cables and 9 surface soil samples from the opposite side of the road.


What Can You Do to Reduce Lead Exposure? 

The following steps are recommended to reduce your potential exposure to lead contamination that may be present in urban soil.

    • Remove shoes at the door before entering your home to prevent tracking in any dirt that may be on your shoes. Clean the bottom of your shoes with a wet wipe or paper towel.
    • Wash your hands and face after coming in from outside and before eating, drinking, or smoking. Wash children’s toys and items they place in their mouths.
    • Avoid digging into or disturbing soil if possible, and wash hands and face afterwards.