Council Delays Action on Bristow Park

November 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s been almost a year since a homicide in East Los Angeles committed by a juvenile from the Bristow Park area of Commerce rattled the nerves of people living in the neighborhood amid fears that there could be a surge in gang activity or gang retaliation.

Since the juvenile was charged with murder and his family moved out of the area, fears seem to have calmed and activities appear to be back to normal, yet there is still talk of stepping up police presence in the neighborhood, perhaps by relocating a Sheriff’s substation to the area.

Lea este artículo en Español: Ayuntamiento Aplaza la Acción para el Parque Bristow

There’s not a problem anymore, said Commerce resident Jose Ledesma Monday morning on his way to play handball at Bristow Park.

“I come here in the mornings and I never see anything dangerous,” he told EGP in Spanish. He said he’s not sure about nighttime activity, but he doesn’t see gang members congregating or suspicious people hanging around during daylight hours.

His statement coincides with information in the Bristow Park Public Safety and Capital Project Update report given by the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station and city staff to the Commerce City Council during its Nov. 17 meeting.

Commerce contracts with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for its law enforcement needs. Deputies assigned to patrol the city are assigned and report to the East L.A. station.

“Our parks are safe,” Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Biagini told the council, noting that only one crime at a local park was reported between Jan. 1 and Nov. 16, 2015.

A person was shot in September and the case is still ongoing, Biagini told EGP. “The victim survived.”

According to Biagini, a 2013 Sheriff’s Department survey in Commerce found that 43% of the people surveyed were concerned about gang loitering, but 81% said they felt safe overall.

Bristow Park in the City of Commerce under safety review. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Bristow Park in the City of Commerce under safety review. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

A Town Hall Meeting focused on public safety in and around the Bristow Park area was held in February this year. Concerns raised by residents at the meeting resulted in the city authorizing an additional car being assigned to patrol the neighborhood seven days a week, using funds from Commerce’s annual allocation of the COPS Grant; about $125,000 to date.

Councilwoman Oralia Rebollo told the council that she works in the Bristow Park area and she can confirm that there has been more patrol presence.

“Yes, the park is safe,” she said.

Councilman Hugo Argumedo said Bristow Park is not the only park in Commerce that the city should be looking at, telling his colleagues “the other [City] parks need to be addressed.”

According to Biagini, the Sheriff’s Department deploys between 25 and 27 deputies to patrol the city and they often visit Commerce’s other parks—Bandini, Veterans and Rosewood.

East Los Angeles resident Cesar Rosas visits Bristow Park and told EGP he thinks the park is clean and he hasn’t seen any gang activity.

“A patrol car comes here very often and stays here for a while,” he said in Spanish.

“They even have cameras in the park so if they see something or someone suspicious they approach them,” he added.

When he compares Bristow Park with others, such as Oregon Park in East Los Angeles, Ledesma said he feels Bristow Park is much more welcoming.

“At Oregon Park you often see gang members congregating,” he said, telling EGP that he once witnessed a group of men with guns looking for other “possible gang members.”

Lorenzo Ochoa was at Bristow Park Monday morning to play soccer. He’s not a regular at the park, but he considers it very safe.

“I usually go to Ruben Salazar Park” in East Los Angeles where I live, said Ochoa, telling EGP he was unaware two men had been gunned down in broad daylight the day before at the eastside park.

“I didn’t know about that, but is a worrying situation,” he said.

Following the report, the city council directed staff to come back to the next council meeting with options for future deputy deployment and the costs associated with each, according to Matthew Rodriguez, director of public safety and community services.

Among the options to be considered is moving the Commerce City COPS Team from City Hall to a new permanent location in Bristow Park. The action would require moving the daycare program to another area of the park. There’s also talk of possibly building a community kitchen.

The goal of city officials and the public safety department is to continue to improve the quality of life “for all residents and guests who live, work, and visit the City of Commerce,” Rodriguez said.

Also, in preparation for El Niño rains, a follow up assessment was directed to all City facilities.

“It has been determined that the Bristow Park roof is in need of immediate attention and repair,” said Rodriguez.

Bristow Park Library staff also confirmed that several leaks have been detected in the library and Community Center.

City staff is scheduled to report back at the Dec. 1 City Council meeting.


Twitter @jackiereporter

Activists Protest Governor’s Silence on Exide at Hotel Opening

November 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

An appearance by Gov. Jerry Brown Wednesday at the opening of a new Bell Gardens hotel drew loud protests from activists angry that he has yet to speak out on the Exide Technologies pollution scandal.

Carrying a 10-foot tall paper maché effigy of the governor, dozens of protesters rallied outside the Bicycle Casino where Brown was headlining the grand opening celebration for the casino’s new hotel: his second appearance on behalf of the project.

“Governor Brown comes to Bell Gardens to acknowledge the expansion of the Bicycle Casino but has not acknowledged the contamination of Exide Technologies,” said Mark Lopez, director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.

Dozens of protesters rallied outside the Bicycle Casino to confront Gov. Jerry Brown who has yet to speak out on the ExideTechnologies pollution scandal. (East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice)

Dozens of protesters rallied outside the Bicycle Casino to confront Gov. Jerry Brown who has yet to speak out on the ExideTechnologies pollution scandal. (East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice)

Lopez was referring to the now shuttered Vernon plant’s illegal emissions of arsenic and lead and other toxic chemicals that have put more than 100,000 east and southeast area residents at a higher risk of cancer and other illnesses.

State toxic control regulators allowed Exide to operate for decades on an interim permit, despite dozens of handling of hazardous waste and emissions violations.

“We are calling on Gov. Brown to meet with community leaders and to commit the necessary funds to clean up the contamination the state allowed Exide to create,” Lopez said.

The governor did not acknowledge the protesters, according to organizers.

Alcaldes de Ciudades del Sureste Apoyan Iniciativa ‘Verde’

November 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Los alcaldes de South Gate, Commerce, Maywood, Bell y Compton, y representantes de la empresa Waste Management (WM), el Distrito de Gestión de Calidad del Aire de la Costa Sur (SCAQMD) y Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas).

“Queremos animar a los propietarios y operadores de los camiones de carga pesada para cambiar sus camiones por vehículos de energía más limpia”, el alcalde de Maywood Eddie de la Riva le dijo a EGP.

Lea artículo completo en Inglés: ‘710 Freeway Mayors’ Back Change to Cleaner Trucks

Dijo que un estudio del condado de Los Ángeles reveló que los residentes de Maywood sufren de algunas de las tasas más altas de asma, cáncer y otras enfermedades respiratorias.

“Es muy importante para mí, ya que es algo que afecta a mi comunidad y mis vecinos”, explicó.

En 2013, un estudio que analizó el tráfico de camiones en las calles más transitadas de Commerce encontró que aproximadamente 47.000 camiones diesel recorren la autopista 710 al día, exponiendo a residentes y trabajadores de Commerce a grandes cantidades de diesel, lo que lleva a las mismas enfermedades que en Maywood.

El alcalde de South Gate Jorge Morales dijo que es importante seguir el movimiento verde. “Tenemos toda la tecnología en este momento, tenemos vehículos de gas natural aquí y podemos hacer una gran diferencia en la calidad del aire de nuestras comunidades”.

 (Southern California Gas Co.)

(Southern California Gas Co.)


Para obtener más información acerca de este movimiento, visite


Twitter @jackiereporter

323 Bistro Offers Fresh California Cuisine

November 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The City of Commerce has a nice new place where residents and visitors to the city can spend time with family and friends while enjoying simple but tasty dishes.

Since opening last month, 323 Bistro at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Los Angeles-Commerce Casino is quickly becoming a popular hangout for people who live, work or visit the community. Its varied menu includes sandwiches, salads, soups, and a variety of other choices.

The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and room service to guests staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel: a smaller menu is offered between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Mayor Leila Leon was among many guests taking part in the October grand opening of 323 Bistro at the Crowne Plaza Hotel-Commerce Casino. (The City of Commerce)

Commerce Mayor Leila Leon was among the many guests taking part in the October grand opening of 323 Bistro at the Crowne Plaza Hotel-Commerce Casino. (The City of Commerce)

Marie Blomquist, director of food and beverage at the Crown Plaza Los Angeles-Commerce Casino, noted that the previous restaurant at the location offered Asian cuisine. But when the hotel took charge of the place the restaurant underwent a change “to a California [cuisine] menu of fresh and varied food,” Blomquist said.

The quality and freshness of the ingredients used  in 323 Bistro’s dishes can’t be overstated. It’s what guides every meal creation:

      “Say yes to fresh and raw ingredients and a fusion of flavors inspired by cultures across the earth. Real food is grown, prepared,  and plated with love–and eaten with joy,” boasts the 323 Bistro website.

The restaurant, according to Blomquist, is off to a good start, with a steady flow of customers, especially in the afternoon. In addition to its eat-in restaurant, 323 Bistro has meeting space available that can accommodate up to 100 people.

“The casino customers and hotel guests have started to notice the presence of the new outlet and have come to check us out,” Blomquist said.

Commerce Mayor Lilia Leon said that the opening of Bistro 323 is an option for those who want to enjoy something other than Asian cuisine.

“Customers will have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of foods rather than the only option they had with the Chinese restaurant,” said Leon, who attended the restaurant’s grand opening in October.

“Any new restaurant will do very well [in Commerce] because we have limited places to go to eat in the area,” said Leon, adding she’s happy that 323 Bistro offers parking validation to customers.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, the restaurant will offer traditional Thanksgiving dishes on Thursday and Friday, from 11 am to 10 pm. Plans are to offer similar service during the Christmas holiday, but the menu has not yet been set.

In addition to offering a new local dining experience, 323 Bistro has also become a source of employment for residents of the City of Commerce, Los Angeles and Orange County. The restaurant employs about 26 people, 90 percent of them Latino.

323 Bistro is located at the Crown Plaza Hotel – Casino Commerce:  6121 E. Telegraph Rd. in Commerce. It is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit or call (323) 832-4311. 

 Updated: 4:03 p.m.

Commerce Health Fair is Back

October 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Growing up with a cousin with Down syndrome helped Commerce Councilwoman Oralia Rebollo understand the many challenges people with disabilities face.

Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca del Rio watched as close family members lost their fight against cancer, making her an advocate for cancer awareness.

Commerce’s mayor, Lilia Leon works closely with women who have suffered domestic violence, helping to empower them to make the transition to independence.

Lea este artículo en Español: Regresa la Feria de Salud de Commerce

Three different causes, all recognized in the same month. October is Down Syndrome, Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

For the three women on Commerce’s City Council the issues are close to their heart and part of the reason they voted with council colleagues to allocate funding to bring back the Commerce Health Fair taking place this Saturday at Rosewood Park after a seven-year hiatus.

The city’s once annual health fair was cut in 2008 due to budget restraints, according to Commerce Media Specialist Herlinda Chico.

“Before, it was a large fair with prizes, raffles and a petting zoo,” said Chico, but this year the public event will have a larger focus on activities and resources focused on breast cancer, Down syndrome and domestic violence.

The city is collaborating with several local organizations to offer a variety of services, including flu shots, mammograms, Zumba, health information, healthy snacks and craft tables. Some of the services require health insurance information but could under certain guidelines be free.

Commerce Health Fair will provide information about Down Syndrome, Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence. (Commerce)

Commerce Health Fair will provide information about Down Syndrome, Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence. (Commerce)

The city council approved $3,500 to help pay for the health fair, according to the city’s finance director, Vilko Domic.

Kicking off the event will be the Abilities Walk—a 30-minute walk around the Rosewood Park starting at 8:30am. The walk is open to everyone, not just those with Down syndrome, according to Eduardo Saucedo, Commerce’s social services coordinator and event organizer.

“We want to focus on the ability and not the disability of an individual,” he said.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, one in every 691 babies in the U.S. is born with Down syndrome, making it the most common genetic condition.

With proper help, however, people with Down syndrome are living longer and are more integrated into society. In 1910, children with Down syndrome were only expected to survive to about age 9, but now, with all advances in clinical treatment, up to 80% of people with Down syndrome reach the age of 60; some live even longer.

Schools in Commerce are operated by the Montebello Unified School District. According to the District, in 2013-2014 nearly 3,200 students in grades Kindergarten to 12 had some type of disability.

During her 2014 election campaign and since, Rebollo, who works in early education, has said she wants Commerce to collaborate more with agencies that provide programs and services to residents with special needs.

Under her leadership, she told EGP, the city has expanded the number of hours for Adaptive Swimming lessons. “Water therapy is one of the best forms of exercise and activities for most children and adults with special needs,” Rebollo said.

In July, Commerce sent two buses of residents to the Special Olympics World Games hosted by Los Angeles. The councilwoman said she was “incredibly proud” of the community for their sportsmanship and support of special needs athletes.

“My ultimate goal is to establish a citizens’ advisory commission on disabilities. Ideally, we will select residents with special needs or who are involved with the special needs community,” she told EGP in an email.

Breast cancer awareness will be heavily promoted during Saturday’s health fair with information and early detection exams. Commerce has secured a mobile mammogram unit to provide free mammograms to women over 40 who register in advance. An experienced physician’s assistant will be on hand to oversee the process and to answer questions.

“Exams are free for those who qualify” under the state-funded Every Woman Counts program eligibility guidelines, said Chico. The city has also secured a $1,000 donation from the Commerce Hotel and Casino to pay for the exam for women who do not qualify for the state program, but cannot afford the $100 cost of the service.

If anything is found during the exam, a free follow up consultation will be provided, Chico said.

Every year, over 200,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer. It is the most common cause of cancer-related death among Latinas, according to the American Cancer Society. Breast cancer can be cured more than 95% of the time with early detection, which is why mammograms are so critical, the American Cancer Society states.

Domestic violence education and awareness are equally important, says Mayor Leon, not just for the victims, but also to help the public understand the issue and to spread the word that help is available.

“People will see the pamphlets and sometimes it is not even for them, but for a family member, a friend or a neighbor,” said Leon.

She told EGP she got involved with the issue in the late 1980s while working at Centro Mental Health, where she met people suffering from different forms of domestic violence and abuse.

“[Domestic violence] doesn’t have to be physical, it’s also mental,” she said. “There’s some men, and in cases women, who think ‘I can do whatever I want with you’ and mistreat their significant other,” Leon explained.

Abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

These behaviors cause physical harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what he or she wish or force the person to behave in ways they do not want.

The city hopes the health fair will help educate and get people talking about how to prevent domestic violence, which also claims the elderly and children among its victims.

Commerce’s Public Safety and Community Services Department will be offering services to those experiencing domestic violence, pointed out Leon.

In partnership with East Los Angeles Women’s Shelter, the city will collect makeup and toiletries, such as shampoo, body wash and toothpaste, throughout the month of October to donate to survivors of domestic violence. Donations can be brought to the health fair or dropped off in collection bins at the city’s four libraries, park facilities, city hall and the senior center.

Participating organizations include Club 51, a support group for parents with children with Down syndrome; ENKI, providing mental health services; the American Cancer Society; Victims Assistance which helps anyone who may be in danger of domestic violence; and Walgreens, which will be administering immunizations to anyone with health insurance: some people may qualify for a free flu shot.

People are encouraged to wear the colors associated with the various causes: pink to support breast cancer, purple for domestic violence and yellow and blue for Down syndrome. The health fair will run from rom 9 a.m. to Noon at Rosewood Park, located at 5600 Harbor St.

To pre-register for a mammogram, call Herlinda Chico at (323) 722-4805 ext. 2370. For more information about the health fair, call (323) 887-4460. 


Twitter @jackieguzman

‘Move Quicker,’ City Tells DTSC

September 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A small breathing machine in his hands and on the verge of tears, Javier Hernandez asked  Commerce city officials to explain why they had not do something sooner to stop the lead contamination flowing from a controversial batter-recycling plant in Vernon to Commerce homes.

“We are here to demand a speedy clean up of our area,” Hernandez, speaking in Spanish, told the council during its bimonthly meeting last week. “I have to use this oxygen machine to sleep for the rest of my life,” he desperately added.

As previously reported by EGP, Commerce officials were caught by surprise when they recently learned that at least one city neighborhood is among the areas state regulators believe to be contaminated with lead from the now shuttered Exide Technologies plant in Vernon.

Concerned about the exposure, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) was asked to attend the city council’s Sept. 8 meeting and to explain their findings to the council and residents.

In March, Exide was forced to permanently close down over its illegally handling of hazardous waste, violations that had exposed hundreds of thousands of people in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and several Vernon-adjacent Southeast cities to dangerous levels of cancer causing levels of lead and arsenic.

On Aug. 20, DTSC announced the contamination area was larger than originally believed, and that new wind pattern modeling had determined that Commerce should be added to the soil sampling target zone. Five to 10,000 properties on the north side of Commerce could be contaminated with lead from the battery-recycling plant, according to state toxic chemical regulators.

Gina Solomon, MD. MPH, deputy secretary for Science and Health with California Environmental Protection Agency, Cal EPA, described lead as a type of poison that could cause anemia, abdominal cramps, seizures, kidney damage. It can also lead to neurological and birth defects.

“Lead doesn’t really [ever] go away,” she explained.

Solomon said that while the investigation is ongoing, she “strongly” discourages allowing children to play in the dirt and people gardening with the soil in their backyards.

“People can also take off their shoes or wipe them well on the entrance mat” to prevent tracking the contaminated soil inside their homes, she suggested.

Mayor Pro-Tem Tina Baca del Rio told the audience she’s worried because DTSC at first said Commerce was not impacted. “Now they say we are but we don’t know to what extent,” she said.

Councilwoman Oralia Rebollo told DTSC’s representatives she is very disappointed that they are not moving faster with their investigation and that they had not yet even notified the Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) about the potential contamination at schools in Commerce.

“You won’t have a draft [of your action plan] until October, that means you will not start sampling until December,” Rebollo said in frustration. “That’s not quick enough.”

DTSC Site Project Manager Su Patel said testing is being delayed due to a lack of available funding, but once they get started they would move quickly to test the large number of properties.

She said the agency would need help from the city to identify and contact property owners.

Which area is contaminated? asked Baca del Rio. “We need to know, to create some relief,” she said.

While Patel was reluctant to specify an area, a map provided by DTSC shows possible contamination in and around the Bristow Park neighborhood.

The focal point should be our schools, we need to highlight any problems around our children, Councilman Hugo Argumedo told DTSC.

Patel said DTSC has been in contact with MUSD and is doing its best to make sure everyone is informed.

“Fix it! Figure out who’s doing the damage,” Baca del Rio told state regulators.

“We are aware we are not the only [contaminated] community, but this community is my priority, as it is the priority of the council,” she said.

Hernandez told EGP he’s tired of hearing promises that the problem will be fixed. He was very upset that the doctor focused on a general study about the impact of lead on children and did not included local statistics in her presentation.

“How is it possible that we allow these people to come in and let them talk to their benefit?” he said. Hernandez wants more than talk, he wants a speedy cleanup.

But according to Solomon, they are still in the very early stages of the investigation in Commerce.

Hernandez’ situation highlights the complexity of identifying with certainty the source of the contamination, at least how it got to where it might be found. Hernandez told EGP he worked for 35 years at a painting company near Exide, and blames the battery recycling plant for his asthma.

Solomon said the agency would like to hear from people like Hernandez and former Exide employees so they can test them for lead, pointing out that most of Exide’s workers did not live in Vernon. She said in cases like Hernandez, who worked nearby—they could have unwittingly spread the contamination to their homes.

“They usually come with lead on their shoes, clothes, inside of their car,” Solomon said. “It is an important issue for them and their families” to consider.

Checkpoint Scheduled in Commerce Friday

September 10, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

 The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will conduct a DUI/Driver License Checkpoint in the city of Commerce Friday. 

The checkpoint will take place between 6 p.m. and 3 a.m. at an undisclosed location, according to LASD.

Drivers caught driving impaired will be arrested and face jail time, fines, fees, DUI classes and other expenses that can reach over $10,000. According to LASD checkpoints reduce the number of persons killed and injured in alcohol or drug-related crashes by up to 20 percent.

Fuel Leak Closes 5 Freeway

September 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

 Leaked fuel from a big rig involved in a crash and a subsequent crash involving four vehicles has closed all but one southbound lane of the Golden State (5) Freeway north of Indiana Street Monday in East Los Angeles, according to the CHP.

All lanes were reopened a few hours later.

Man Shot in Commerce Named

September 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Authorities Wednesday released the name of a man who was shot and killed in Commerce.

The attack in the 5100 block of Astor Avenue took place about 8:50 p.m. Tuesday, said sheriff’s Homicide Bureau Lt. Steven Jauch, adding that the man was found lying in front of his house with an upper-chest wound and was pronounced dead at the scene.

He was 25-year-old Ernest Ramos, coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter said this morning.

Witnesses told homicide detectives that three men walked up to Ramos as he stood in front of his home, and one of them shot him, said Deputy Mike Barraza. The three then ran southbound from the site and fled in a vehicle that headed south on Astor Avenue.

A motive for the shooting was unknown, and no suspect information was immediately available. Anyone with information on the shooting was urged to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. All tips can be made anonymously.

Exide Taint Blows Over to City of Commerce

August 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The City of Commerce had joined a long list of communities affected by lead contamination from a Vernon-based battery recycling plant permanently closed in March for hazardous waste violations.

The disturbing news was announced last week by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which said it used wind pattern modeling to add Commerce to the soil sampling target zone. Five to 10,000 properties could be contaminated with lead from the Exide Technologies plant, according to state toxic chemical regulators.

Exide’s troubling history of toxic chemical air emissions and hazardous waste violations has sparked outrage and protests in an area that runs from Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and several Vernon-adjacent Southeast cities.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, pictured center, demands that cleanup of lead contaminated homes begin immediately after learning testing will expand to Commerce. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, pictured center, demands that cleanup of lead contaminated homes begin immediately after learning testing will expand to Commerce. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Commerce City Administrator Jorge Rifa told EGP said they are in the “very early stages” of understanding the “scope and extent” of the damage in Commerce, but said city staff and the city council will do everything within their jurisdiction to address the problem.

“We are working really hard and the council is very concerned,” Rifa said. “This is something new for all of us … We don’t want to overstate or play down the problem.”

Like Vernon, Commerce is also an industrial city, the biggest difference Commerce has over 13,000 residents compared to about 200 Vernon residents.

News that toxic pollution from Exide had made its way to homes in Commerce caught many in the city by surprise.

City Planner Jose Jimenez told EGP he attended a public meeting in Boyle Heights Aug. 13 and there was no discussion of possible lead contamination in Commerce.

Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca del Rio attended last week’s meeting and told EGP she was taken aback by the news.

She said Vernon needs to revise its policies regarding the types of businesses is allows to operate in that city because they not only impact Vernon, but other communities as well.

Del Rio said she is committed to working on the issue with representatives from all the affected areas.

Last Friday, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who represents Commerce, issued a statement demanding the immediate cleanup of contaminated properties and for DTSC to not spend more time on site testing.

“This contamination is now more widespread and my first concern is with the immediate health of citizens in the City of Commerce, especially our most vulnerable, such as pregnant women and young children who may come in contact with contamination in their yards or at the playground,” Garcia said.

“The continued testing is expensive and continues to only reaffirm what the scientific models show to be the likely spread of the contaminant,” she added.

But according to DTSC spokesperson Sandy Nax, additional testing is needed to identify the locations of lead deposits and concentrations before cleanup can begin.

“Testing also helps with prioritizing cleanup of properties with the highest contamination,” he told EGP.

The northern part of the Union Pacific Railyard is believed to be most affected, Rifa said. The city council has schedule the issue for discussion at its Sept. 8 meeting. DTSC will brief the council on the results of their findings and answer questions, he said.

In the meantime, Garcia’s office reported that DTSC is working on a letter/email that in the next few days will be sent to residents in the impacted area.

“This letter/ email will just explain what is currently going on and what the next steps are,” states Garcia’s office.

With the information being so fresh, city staff told EGP many residents and business owners may not yet be aware of the latest findings.

“I haven’t heard from any business owner” as of yet, Deputy City Administrator Fernando Mendoza told EGP.

“In talking with our Environmental Health and Safety team, we haven’t received any notification from a regulator about possible effect on our business,” Commerce-based Unified Grocers spokesperson Paul Dingsdale told EGP. “We would not anticipate any issues, based on our team’s review.”

Eddie Tafoya, executive director of the city’s Chamber of Commerce Industrial Council, told EGP Tuesday they had only just recently heard the news and are still getting caught up on the issue.

While many in the city expressed surprise over the latest DTSC pronouncements, Commerce is not new to the controversy. In 2013, the city council sent a letter to Vernon requesting they close the plant, but according to Rifa, they never received a response.

The issue could be tricky for Commerce, which also has a large industrial base and is home to one of the busiest railyards in the country, two known sources of pollution.

Unlike Vernon, however, residents in the city have a strong history of pushing environmental concerns, such as pushing to stop trains from idling near homes and most recently a ban on idling by large trucks in order to decrease the harmful effects of diesel emissions to residents and workers in the city.

Baca del Rio said she is expecting to get funding as soon as possible to clean the contamination. “Just because we are minorities that doesn’t mean [big corporations] can come and pollute our city.”

Garcia said she is committed to work with Commerce, residents, the advisory board and DTSC to keep the public informed about “this hazard and the health screenings needed” to move the community forward.

Due to privacy and confidentiality concerns, DTSC will not release information about private property owners and residents, including who is being tested or the results, stated Garcia.

Rifa encouraged those who may be concerned to visit their doctor and to be tested for lead. Following other simple directions, such as removing shoes before entering a house, also makes sense, Rifa said.

“The test will show whether the level is above the Centers for Disease Control’s acceptable limits, and whether medical attention is needed,” said Rifa.


Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is still testing the blood-lead levels of residents near the Exide facility. Those interested can sign up for the testing at or by calling toll-free:1-844-888-2290. 


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