CARTERET, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The safety of a backyard or a vegetable garden is now in question for thousands of homeowners in Carteret who’ve been told their properties are contaminated.

As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, they are now suing.

Residents of the industrial town started receiving letters from the U.S. Metals Co. a few months ago alerting them to high levels of lead, arsenic and copper — byproducts of the company’s former copper smelting operations from 1902-86.

Attorney Steve German is representing homeowners concerned about the exposure.

“People have no confidence that their yards are safe now and the place that their children are playing have been safe for the time that this contamination has been there,” German said.

For one mother, who did not want her face shown on camera, her worries extend to her children and grandchildren. She has lived in Carteret since 1980.

“I garden here,” she said. ” … And I just think about all the things that I’ve done here in the soil because I love working in the soil.

The woman added that she is “shocked, hurt, afraid and really frightened” about the contamination. “It really hurt me, and it’s bothering me now.”

German said residents want those responsible to pay for medical screening.

Because the contamination levels are higher than the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s standard, the U.S. Metals Co. is required to remove the soil and replace it with clean soil. They have begun that process.

But nearby residents say that doesn’t go far enough and that the contamination could bring a crushing blow to property values.

“Been here all these years and worked, my husband and I, and accumulated,” the mother said. “The property value was up, but now I’m sure it’ll go down.”

The metals company acknowledges the problems and is working with the state DEP to address any environmental impact.

The soil remediation project will not come at any cost to taxpayers.