EDISON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A federal project to clean up contaminated soil in New Jersey is scheduled to begin later this month.

The Environmental Protection Agency will begin digging up and replacing lead-tainted soil around 12 homes in the Edison area.

The soil in that area was contaminated because of old lead smelting factories.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reports

The federal government will spend more than $1.2 million for the clean-up project.

“It seems like a lot of money,” environmentalist Robert Spiegel with the group Edison Wetlands told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney.

But Spiegel said this clean-up project is just the tip of the iceberg because of New Jersey’s industrial past.

“It’s more like trying to put a band-aid on a surgical wound, because lead is prevalent in many people’s yards,” Spiegel told Putney. “There used to be a lot of smelters here.”

State officials said the clean-up effort has been effective in recent years.

“Three years ago, we had 20,000 contaminated sites,” said Larry Ragonese with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

There are now 15,000 sites that still require fresh soil to replace soil tainted by lead or other contaminants.

“Most of the areas in New Jersey, you’re very safe to live in,” Ragonese told Putney.

“A bigger problem is the fact that lead also leaches into the ground water, it leaches into the rivers and the streams,” Spiegel said.

Officials said people who live in or near industrial areas should know to be responsible and not play in the dirt.

“There’s not an issue that people should be alarmed or people should be running to the hills,” Ragonese told Putney.

State officials said they are working with the federal government to prioritize other contaminated sites for clean-up.

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