To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Saturday, April 27, 2013

New pollution study ranks Los Angeles areas in top 10 worst in state


By Steve Scauzillo, April 24, 2013


 Traffic was one of the factors considered in a new study on pollution in the state.

Highest-scoring ZIP Codes.
Key: Blue = Top 5% || Orange = Top 6-10%


Statewide results
 Key: The darker the blue, the higher the scores.
(Dark blue = Highest 1-10%)

(Go to the website for interactive zoom for the two above maps.)

A statewide snapshot measuring the cumulative impact of pollution on public health reported that of the top 10 percent most polluted ZIP codes in the state, half are in Southern California. Three Los Angeles County communities are especially burdened: East Los Angeles, Vernon and Baldwin Park, according to CalEnviroScreen 1.0, an interactive tool released Tuesday by the California Environmental Protection Agency.
The study, along with a database and an interactive map, was billed as the first of its kind by Cal/EPA.

"In the past, we've looked at each type of pollutant. This is an attempt to look at multiple pollutants," said Sam Delson, a spokesman for the Cal/EPA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

Communities within the top 5 percent included: Oxnard, Pacoima, Sun Valley, parts of Los Angeles, part of Whittier, Norwalk, East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Downey, Bell, Vernon, Paramount, Lynwood, Compton, Wilmington, Santa Fe Springs, Pico Rivera, El Monte, Baldwin Park, Irwindale, Pomona, Ontario, Fontana, Rialto, Colton, San Bernardino and Perris.
Those in the top 6 to 10 percent included: Palmdale, Sylmar, Port Hueneme, Inglewood, Bellflower, Artesia, La Canada Flintridge, Azusa, Rosemead, South Gate, Monterey Park and parts of Rancho Cucamonga, Chino and Riverside.

"I'm not surprised by this outcome," said Baldwin Park Councilwoman Marlen Garcia. "I've been saying for years the city of Baldwin Park should be considered a hot spot."

She pointed to the proximity of the city's 76,000 residents to the heavily used 10 and 605 freeways and the mining activity in and surrounding the city as sources of air pollution.

Baldwin Park's Pollution Burden Score was 8.4 out of 10, the highest in the state. East Los Angeles's score, 7.6, and Vernon's score, 7.2, also placed them among the 10 most polluted ZIP codes.

The other seven areas in the top 10 are in the more rural San Joaquin Valley: three ZIP codes in Fresno, three areas in Stockton and one in Bakersfield.

A community's pollution burden was calculated using 11 environmental factors, including smog, proximity to high-trafficked roadways and freeways, landfills, industrial plants, groundwater, pesticides and poisoned waterways.

The study also looked at community characteristics such as poverty levels, ethnicity, children, the elderly, asthma rates and English language proficiency.

The study is a result of legislation passed in 2004 that requires Cal/EPA to identify disadvantaged communities in cleanup and permitting decisions. Studies show that minorities are more affected by pollution because they live near pollution hot spots, such as freeways and landfills.

Communities in the top 10 percent ranking can addresses environmental justice issues by gaining access to grants from the state's new cap-and-trade auctions, Delson said.

Under California's landmark AB 32 law adopted to reduce greenhouse gases that cause global climate change, emitters can buy or trade allowances in order to stay within the emissions cap.

The state has held two such auctions so far and the next will take place May 16. The governor's budget estimates the auctions will generate $200 million for AB 32 projects, said H.D. Palmer, analyst with the State Department of Finance. In 2013-14, Palmer estimates the pot will double.

"We are trying to find ways to promote the environmental health of these communities and that will eventually lead to economic vitality," Delson said.

Though no specific projects have been identified, said Palmer, there will be opportunities for pollution-burdened areas.

Projects the state could consider are adding charging and refueling infrastructure for low and zero-emission vehicles. High-speed and light rail projects could also be considered by the state to lower the amount of emissions released in these high-pollution areas.

"You need to have that designation to be able to get the resources and enforcement needed," said Penny Newman, executive director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice in Riverside County, whose organization helped gather the data for the" study.

Former Baldwin Park planner Sal Lopez, who now works as a senior planning associate with Evan Brooks Associates, a regional planning firm, said he was excited about funneling grant money to cities such as Vernon, East L.A. and Baldwin Park for tree plantings, parks and bike paths.

"Now I will know what to look for in the future in terms of these cap-and-trade grants," he said.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has singled out two communities for environmental justice work, Boyle Heights and San Bernardino, said spokesmanSam Atwood.

In Boyle Heights, residents live close to the 5 and 60 freeways. The report cites the 2013 study that said children exposed to traffic-related pollution were 15 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism than children of mothers living further from freeway and automobile exhaust.

Residents of San Bernardino who live near the Santa Fe Railyard have a higher cancer risk due to diesel soot emissions from trains, he said.

To reduce exposure, the SCAQMD through its Clean Communities program has installed air filters in K-12 classrooms in Boyle Heights and San Bernardino, he" said.

While the air district used grant money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Atwood said the agency "will definitely take a look at that (AB 32) as an additional funding source."

In Vernon, the high ranking can be attributed to heavy industrial uses as well as emissions from the 710 Freeway, Atwood surmised.

"For some communities like Vernon and those in the San Fernando Valley (such as Pacoima, parts of North Hills and Sun Valley), these analyses show us that we need to make better planning decisions," said Martha Arguello, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles.

One way would be to attract green manufacturers. "These cities risk cup is overflowing and we need to act to help them," she said.

Nonprofit groups, such as the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, and Amigos de los Rios, a grass-roots environmental action group that is working on greening the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel rivers in El Monte and Baldwin Park, both saw the need for more parks and green spaces in polluted areas.

"It is heartbreaking to see children who live in one of these communities who live near a freeway or next to a mining operation. They don't go outside as much and they are vulnerable to other health impacts, such as diabetes," said Claire Robinson. managing director for Amigos de los Rios. "We are in a serious crisis."