EGP Wins Award for Reporting on Exide

October 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Eastern Group Publication (EGP) was presented an award for outstanding reporting by New America Media, an organization that represents ethnic media outlets and journalist from across the country.

More than 200 people turned out Sept. 19 for the 2017 NAM California Ethnic Media Awards in downtown San Francisco.

Former EGP reporter Nancy Martinez, (pictured) was recognized Sept. 19 by New America Media for Outstanding Coverage of the Environment.

Former EGP reporter Nancy Martinez, (pictured) was recognized Sept. 19 by New America Media for Outstanding Coverage of the Environment.

The event was a celebration of California’s ethnic media sector, the “bridge,” said NAM Executive Director Sandy Close, “that connects the diverse communities of the state to the wider civic realm and to each other.”

Judges selected 12 winners in 11 categories, including Politics and the 2016 Election, Health Care, Immigration, Education, Sports, Youth Voice and Cross Cultural Reporting. Awardees were chosen from a pool of 140 entries in four languages across California.

There are hundreds of ethnic media outlets across the state, serving communities both large and small. Whether they are large broadcasters, daily broadsheets or weekly and monthly magazines, hundreds of thousands of California residents regularly turn to ethnic media for news and information.

Former EGP Reporter Nancy Martinez won in the category Outstanding Coverage of the Environment for her story on the decades-long struggle to get elected officials and state regulars to address Exide Technologies’ toxic emissions and soil contamination in east and southeast Los Angeles, even as nearby Porter Ranch got immediate attention last year when a natural gas leak threatened the area’s more affluent residents.

Her article, “Exide, Porter Ranch: A Double Standard,” was “years in the making,” said Martinez, who began reporting for EGP at 22. “It really made a difference in my career because it elevated the type of reporting I was doing. It was a journey to get to that point.”

The awarded article is one of dozens of stories EGP has published over the last decade on the Exide environmental catastrophe that continues today, as residents and state regulators battle over the plan to clean up lead and other chemicals at thousands of homes, schools, daycare centers, businesses and parks.

State regulators, environmentalists and public health groups have called the fallout from Exide’s decades of polluting the largest environmental catastrophe in California history.

Martinez’ article was the first to point out the stark difference in how residents in lower-income, predominantly Latinos communities are treated compared to wealthier, predominately white residents when it comes to environmental justice issues. The article gave voice to the frustration and fear of residents long ignored.

“EGP thanks New America Media for its recognition of Nancy Martinez’ outstanding reporting on the Exide environmental catastrophe, and the double standard that still exists when it comes to environmental justice for people of color and limited means,” said EGP Publisher Dolores Sanchez.

“Martinez is well-deserving of this award.”

Health Officials Continues to Hammer State’s Exide Plan

October 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The state is still not doing enough to protect residents who live near the now-shuttered Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon, the county’s public health director said Tuesday.

Barbara Ferrer, who leads the Department of Public Health, said the state’s method for testing soil to determine whether lead contamination exists is flawed.

“The sampling strategy just has you going to a handful of places in each yard. Unfortunately, with lead, it can be in one place in the yard and not another place,” Ferrer said.

County workers retested five parcels that had been cleared by the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control and found three of the five still had hot spots, she told the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Ferrer said the state needs to institute a block-by-block plan for cleanup to ensure environmental safety, rather than a house-by-house, parcel-by-parcel strategy.

County officials have also been pressing the state to clean up the inside of homes, saying residents track in contamination from their yards. And parkways, not just yards, need to be decontaminated, they say.

“The neighbors agree with us that the strategy right now doesn’t make sense at all,” Ferrer said.

The board and Ferrer acknowledged that they have no authority over the DTSC.

Ferrer, who was hired early this year, said she had tried cooperating with the agency but wasn’t getting the results she wanted.

“We share the frustration of the community at this point,” Ferrer said, citing “an inexplicable delay in actually coming into the community and doing mitigation.”

The DTSC released its cleanup plan in July and said it is committed to protecting the health of residents in the community.

“This cleanup plan is the result of more than a year of effort and community input,” a spokesman said then.

“In response to the public comments we received, DTSC adjusted the prioritization process to streamline it in a manner that continues to protect the health of residents at properties with the highest levels of lead in soil and the greatest risk of exposure to that lead,” said Mohsen Nazemi, deputy
director for DTSC’s Brownfields and Environmental Restoration Program.

The scope of work focuses on homes with soil lead concentrations of 400 parts per million or more, those with hot spot concentrations of 1,000 ppm or more, and daycare and child care centers with concentrations of 80 ppm or more.

As for the pace of its cleanup, the agency pointed out that it had stopped soil testing in order to accommodate a large-scale environmental review in response to complaints by residents and legislators.

When Exide agreed to close the lead-acid battery recycling plant, it committed to pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding residential neighborhoods of Boyle Heights and Maywood. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation providing $176.6 million in funding for environmental testing and cleanup work in neighborhoods surrounding the now-shuttered plant, with the testing expected to cover about 10,000 properties.

There are three pieces of legislation on the governor’s desk that could help prevent future contamination or provide more money for cleanup.

One bill would increase maximum penalties to $70,000 a day for violators of hazardous waste laws; another would require the state to convene a lead advisory task force; and the third is aimed at forcing owners and operators of hazardous waste facility to submit permit renewals on time.

The Exide plant, which opened in 1922, was allowed to keep operating under a temporary permit for 33 years, despite continuing environmental violations. It was permanently closed in March 2015.

Supervisor Hilda Solis asked that the board consider a permanent blood testing facility in the area and provide related health services for residents in a 1.7-mile radius of the plant. Staffers were tasked with evaluating the feasibility of that plan.

Se Rechaza Plan de Limpieza Exide

September 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

El plan desarrollado por reguladores estatales para limpiar la contaminación masiva cual fue dejada cuando la planta de reciclaje de baterías automotrices en Vernon dejará a demasiada gente en peligro, dijeron activistas ambientales, oficiales elegidos y residentes de municipalidades en cuales se han encontrado niveles peligrosos de plomo y otros contaminantes tóxicos en una rueda de prensa en Commerce este lunes.

El peligro y riesgos para la salud no paran en el portal o en el límite de la propiedad y tampoco deben quedar ahí su limpieza, muchos dijeron sobre el plan del Departamento De Control Sobre Substancias Tóxicas de California (DTSC) para limpiar propiedades contaminada por plomo de la planta cerrada de Exide Technologies.

Casi 200 personas asistieron a la rueda de prensa organizada por la “Coalición Para Comunidades Sin Plomo”, un grupo comunitario que representa a los pueblos de Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Commerce, Bell, Huntington Park Maywood y Vernon, vecindades y municipalidades dentro de la zona de 1.7-millas que beneficiará de la limpieza. Después de la conferencia para los medios, manifestantes caminaron hasta las oficinas de la agencia estatal DTSC en Commerce, en donde exigieron coreando y con gritos una limpieza mayor y más rápida por parte del DTSC.

El peligro y riesgos para la salud no paran en el portal o en el límite de la propiedad y tampoco deben quedar ahí su limpieza, dijeron el Consejal Jose Huizar y diputado estatal Miguel Santiago. (Foto EGP por Fred Zermeno)

El peligro y riesgos para la salud no paran en el portal o en el límite de la propiedad y tampoco deben quedar ahí su limpieza, dijeron el Consejal Jose Huizar y diputado estatal Miguel Santiago. (Foto EGP por Fred Zermeno)

 

Compartida en julio, el plan de la agencia recomienda la remoción de tierra contaminada desde las yardas de aproximadamente 2,500 propiedades, siendo los hogares revelados por investigaciones con los niveles más altos de plomo y en lugares donde niños y mujeres embarasadas están corren riesgos mayores.

El plomo es una toxina peligrosa que es conocida como causa de enfermedades nuerológicas, descapacidades cognitivas o cerebrales, aún a bajos niveles de contacto. Aunque oficiales federales y estatales a cargo de la salud pública hayan establecido niveles aceptables de contacto, expertos dicen que no hay ningún nivel de contacto sin peligro.

Residentes y activistas excoriaron el plan como insuficiente y demasiada despacio para enfrentar al peligro para la salud. Este lunes, señalaron al DTSC que se debe agregar a las vias peatonales y a los interiores de viviendas al plan, y ampliar a la área designada para remediación. Vías recreacionales o “peatonales” se explica como la área entre una yarda o propiedad y la calle, que muchos residentes tratan como una extensión de su hogar.

“Esto no lo aguantarían en Porter Ranch o Beverly Hills,” dijo Monsignor John Moretta de la Iglesia Resurrection en Boyle Heights, uno de los organizadores principales de la lucha para rectificar al los daños causados por Exide.

Moretta aludía a la esfuerza rápida y económicamente fuerte que se efectuó en Porter Ranch, donde los residentes exigieron la clausura de una de la instalaciones de Southern California Gas Co. en Aliso Canyon después que se descubrió un escape de gas en octubre del 2015. Tomó menos de tres meses para trasladar a más de 2,000 residentes, cerrar a las escuelas y re-establecer a los alumnos en otros colegios, mientras los residentes que han tenido que vivir por décadas en la sombra tóxica de Exide todavía esperan que sus hogares se barren de la contaminación.

“Tiene todo que ver con la política y el dinero”, dijo Moretta. “Nuestros oficiales gubernamentales tienen que implementar un plan que sea 100 por cien sostenido por el presupuesto”.

Según los monitores de la calidad del aire, alrededor d 110,000 personas fueron expuestos a emisiones carinogénicos de la planta y más de 10,000 propiedades podrán tener algún nivel de contaminación por plomo. Expertos ambientales califican a la contaminación como la más grande en la historia del estado.

“Nuestros oficiales gubernamentales tienen que implementar un plan que sea 100 por cien sostenido por el presupuesto”, dijo Monsignor John Moretta de la Iglesia Resurrection en Boyle Heights. (Foto EGP por Fred Zermeno)

“Nuestros oficiales gubernamentales tienen que implementar un plan que sea 100 por cien sostenido por el presupuesto”, dijo Monsignor John Moretta de la Iglesia Resurrection en Boyle Heights. (Foto EGP por Fred Zermeno)

El Consejal de Los Angeles Jose Huizar dijo que la comunidad ha “gritado por auxilio” por más de 30 años, mientras la agencia DTSC “permitió” a Exide “contaminar” mientras “nuestros hijos fueron expuestos a contaminación de plomo, en el aire y en la tierra”.

“Y ahora el DTSC está ignorando la necesidad para un plan de limpieza complete que llega a todos los lugares en donde nuestro niños juegan y viven”, Huizar dijo en un correo electrónico a EGP. “El plomo está en todas partes, incluyendo las vías recreacionales, y es razonable que todas las áreas de la zona contaminada se deben limpiar… Esto es, literalmente, una cuestión de vida o muerte”, Huizar dijo. “¿Donde está la urgencia y porque no estamos armando una limpieza entera?” Calificó cualquiera esfuerza de limpieza menos de eso como inaceptable.

EGP intentó contactar al DTSC para una respuesta pero a punto de imprimir todavía no habían respondido, pero previamente, la agencia ha dicho que no tiene suficiente dinero para un limpieza completa – que expertos de salud y el ambiente estiman llegar a los $400 millones o más.

Como parte de su arreglo con autoridades federales para cerrar permanentemente y evitar cargos criminales, Exide accedió pagar $50 millones para la eliminación de sus gasto peligrosos; de eso, $26 millón era para a la limpieza de las vecindades cercanas. Después de mucho clamor de la comunidad, el Gobernador Jerry Brown accedió prestarle $176.6 millones al DTSC para una investigación y prueba igual como trabajo de limpieza en los barrio alrededor de la planta cerrada.

La Supervisora Hilda Solis dijo lunes que la área enmarcada por el plan de limpieza es demasiada pequeña y debe ser ampliada fuera del circulo de 1.7-millas. Ha criticado frecuentemente a los reguladores estatales por no actuar de manera suficientemente agresiva y por ignorar recomendaciones del condado y de los residentes.

Como Moretta, está convencida de que si las comunidades compuestas por Latinos de la clase trabajadora eran, a cambio, de más dinero y anglosajónes, el estado estaría haciendo más.

“Residentes tienen todo el derecho de estar enojados con el paso lento de la limpieza”, diputado estatal Miguel Santiago dijo a EGP. Dijo que había asistido a la manifestación porque tiene una responsabilidad a sus constituyentes seguir presionando a los reguladores estatales, algo que es, para el, una “prioridad principal” desde su elección.

Una encuesta informal de más de 4,000 residentes efectuada unas semanas antes de la revelación por la DTSC de su plan, señalo que muchos de los residentes de la área impactada temen por si mismos y los familiares con quienes viven ser envenenados o padecer de cáncer como resultado haber sido expuesto.

Los coros y gritos el lunes eran muy aparecidos a los que se han escuchado en cientos de manifestaciones, protestas y foros públicos durante los últimos cinco años.

Es una pena la comunidad tiene que recurrir a medidas tan drásticas como las protestas para declamar sus posiciones, dijo Moretta, agregando que los residentes del este y el sureste están recibiendo tratamiento como ciudadanos de segunda clase.

Notó que Sam Atwood, un vocero para el South Coast Air Quality District Management District (Distrito de Manejamiento de la Calidad del Aire Costa Sur) había etiquetado las áreas contaminadas como las peores que había visto en su vida.

“Tenemos hijos y familias en las calles”, dijo Moretta. “Es hora que empieza hacerlo.”

Reportero de EGP Carlos Alvarez contribuyó a este artículo.

State’s Plan For Exide Cleanup Continues to Draw Protests

September 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The plan developed by state regulators to clean up the massive contamination left behind by a now defunct battery recycler in Vernon will leave too many people in danger, environmental justice advocates, elected officials and residents of neighborhoods and cities found to have unsafe levels of lead and other toxic pollutants said at a press conference in Commerce Monday.

The danger and health risks from lead don’t stop at the front door or property line, and neither should its removal, speakers said about the California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control’s (DTSC) plan to clean properties contaminated with lead from the now closed Exide Technologies plant.

About 200 people attended Monday’s press conference organized by “Lead-Free Communities Coalition,” a community-based advocacy group representing residents of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Commerce, Bell, Huntington Park Maywood and Vernon, neighborhoods and cities in the 1.7-mile zone targeted for cleanup. Following the press conference, protesters marched to DTSC’s offices in Commerce where they shouted and chanted for DTSC to do more and to do it faster.

At a press conference in Commerce Monday, Monsignor John Moretta (center), joined by hundreds of community activists and elected officials demanded the Dept. of Toxic Substances Control include parkways and home interiors in its Exide clean up plan. contamination zone. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

At a press conference in Commerce Monday, Monsignor John Moretta (center), joined by hundreds of community activists and elected officials demanded the Dept. of Toxic Substances Control include parkways and home interiors in its Exide clean up plan. contamination zone. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

The agency’s plan released in July calls for removing lead-contaminated soil from the yards of about 2,500 properties, with the priority being homes tested to have the highest levels of lead and where children and pregnant women are at highest risk.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who represents all the neighborhoods and cities in the impacted zone, said a canvass of 20,000 homes in the area earlier this summer found that 50% of the homes have children under the age of 6.

Lead is a dangerous toxin known to cause neurological disorders, learning and cognitive disabilities and lower IQ’s even at low levels of exposure. While the federal government and state health officials have set acceptable rates of exposure, health experts say there is no safe level.

Residents and activists have blasted the plan as insufficient and too slow to deal with the ongoing health hazard. On Monday, they said they want DTSC to add parkways and home interiors to the plan, and to expand the area targeted for remediation. Parkways are the area between a yard or property and the street, which many residents treat as an extension of their homes.

They said it’s time for state lawmakers to do what’s right and fully fund the the cleanup  of their neighborhoods.

“They wouldn’t stand for their (DTSC) actions in Porter Ranch or Beverly Hills,” said Monsignor John Moretta of Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights, a lead organizer in the fight to rectify the damage caused by Exide.

Moretta was referring to the quick and well-funded cleanup effort that took place in Porter Ranch, where residents demanded the closure of a Southern California Gas Co. facility in Aliso Canyon after a leak was discovered in October 2015. It took less than three months to relocate more than 2,000 residents, shut down schools and move students to other campuses, while residents living for decades in Exide’s toxic shadow are still waiting for their homes to be cleaned.

“It’s all about politics and money,” Moretta said. “Our government officials need to implement a plan that’s 100 percent funded.”

According to air quality regulators, as many as 110,000 people were exposed to cancer-causing emissions from the plant and upwards of 10,000 properties may have some level of lead contamination. Environmental experts say the contamination is the largest in state history.

Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar represents one of the most heavily contaminated neighborhoods, Boyle Heights. The community has been “screaming for help” for more than 30 years, while DTSC allowed Exide to continue to pollute, he told EGP. “All the while our children have been exposed to lead pollution, in the air and in the soil.

“And now, the DTSC is ignoring the need for a full cleanup plan that reaches all of the places our children live and play,” Huizar said. “The lead is everywhere, including parkways … This is literally a matter of life and death,” he said. “Where is the urgency and why aren’t we doing a thorough cleanup?” He called anything less than a full cleanup unacceptable.

EGP reached out to DTSC for comment but had not heard back as of press time, but the agency has previously said it does not have enough money to do the full cleanup – which public health and environmental experts have put at $400 million or more.

L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (right) joined protesters in Commerce Monday who say the state's plan to remove hazardous waste from homes is insufficient. Sept. 18, 2017 (EGP photo be Fred Zermeno)

L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (right) joined protesters in Commerce Monday who say the state’s plan to remove hazardous waste from homes is insufficient. Sept. 18, 2017 (EGP photo be Fred Zermeno)

As part of its deal with federal authorities to permanently close and avoid criminal prosecution, Exide agreed to pay $50 million for the removal of its hazardous waste; of that, $26 million was to go toward cleaning the surrounding neighborhoods. After a great deal of pressure from the community, Gov. Jerry Brown agreed to loan DTSC 176.6 million for environmental testing and cleanup work in the neighborhoods surrounding the closed plant.

State officials have said they will go after Exide to recoup the money, but no one seems clear on how or when that will happen.

Solis points out that this is not the first time the community has come together to demand a swift and thorough cleanup.

“This week’s rally was months in the making because DTSC is not listening to our communities who are buried in pollution and lead,” she said in an email to EGP. “DTSC’s methodology has limited ability to identify ‘hot spots,’ including parkways in front of homes,” said Solis, who has repeatedly criticized state regulators for not being aggressive enough and for ignoring recommendations from the county and residents.

She said the state is offering vouchers to residents to pay companies to go and “vacuum their carpets and wipe down walls,” and that’s not good enough.

The interiors should be decontaminated by hazardous waste experts at the same time that they remove lead from the exterior, she said.

Like Moretta, Solis believes that if the predominately Latino working class communities were more affluent and white, the state would be doing more.

“Residents have every right to be angry with the slow pace of the cleanup,” Assemblyman Miguel Santiago told EGP. He said he attended the rally because he has a responsibility to his constituents to keep the pressure on state regulators, something he’s made his “top priority” since first being elected. Santiago sent a letter to DTSC asking the agency to look into including parkways in its plan.

An informal survey of more than 4,000 residents conducted a few weeks before DTSC released its plan revealed that many residents in the impacted area live in fear that they or someone in their home may get lead poisoning or cancer due to their exposure.

There’s tremendous interest in how Exide has affected them, Solis said..

The chants and shouts Monday were much the same as those heard at hundreds of rallies, protests and public hearings over the last five years.

Moretta said it’s a shame the community has to resort to drastic measures like protests to make a statement. Residents in east and southeast communities are being treated like second-class citizens, the Catholic priest said.

He noted that Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality District Management District had labeled the contaminated areas the worst he has ever seen,

“We have children and families on [those] streets,” Moretta said, referring to additional areas that should be cleaned.

“They’re [DTSC] suppose to protect people and our environment from toxic substances,” Moretta said. “It’s time they start doing that.”

EGP Staff Writer Carlos Alvarez contributed to this story.

Updated 9/22/17 : Adds information from Sup. Hilda Solis about the availability and effectiveness of vouchers for interior cleaning of homes.

County Blasts State Plan for Exide Clean Up

July 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis blasted a cleanup plan released by state officials for neighborhoods surrounding the shuttered Exide battery-recycling plant in Vernon, saying the plan moves too slowly and will leave thousands of residents exposed to dangerous levels of lead.

“This community has suffered enough, not only at the hands of Exide, but at the hands of DTSC (state Department of Toxic Substances Control), which allowed Exide to operate on a temporary permit for 33 years,” Solis said Monday.

“The DTSC’s final cleanup plan ignores many of the reasonable concerns raised by the community members.”

The release of the state’s plan comes just days after release of an informal survey or area residents revealed that many residents in the impacted are live in fear that they or someone in their home might get lead poisoning or cancer from the high levels of hazardous chemicals spewed from the plant for decades.

More than 4,200 surveys were completed during a June 10 outreach effort in Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Maywood, East Los Angeles, Huntington Park and Vernon, all within the 1.7 mile radius targeted as having the highest potential for lead exposure and contamination.

DTSC released its cleanup plan last week, saying about 2,500 properties with the most contaminated soil will be targeted in the cleanup effort that will take two years.

According to the department, the cleanup effort will be conducted at properties within 1.7 miles of the plant, prioritizing:

—homes with soil lead concentrations of 400 parts per million or higher;

—residential properties with the overall lead concentration is less that 400 parts per million, but where any individual soil sampling was determined to have a concentration of 1,000 ppm or higher;

—daycare and child care centers with soil lead concentrations of 80 ppm or higher that have not yet been cleaned; and

—all parks and schools in need of cleaning.

Additional properties could be cleaned if funding is available, officials said.

Solis and county Public Health officials called the DTSC’s cleanup plan ineffective, saying it will not identify all the properties in need of expedited cleanup. They accused the state agency of ignoring recommendations from the county and residents.

They also contend the cleanup plan for the interior of homes doesn’t offer assurances that the homes will be safe to occupy, since lead can still be tracked in from the outside.

DTSC officials insisted, however, that the cleanup plan shows the agency’s “strong commitment to protecting the health of those who live in these communities.”

“This cleanup plan is the result of more than a year of effort and community input,” said Mohsen Nazemi, deputy director for DTSC’s Brownfields and Environmental Restoration Program. “We held three public meetings to solicit comments and had an extended comment period. We received about 1,000 public comments, which we carefully reviewed and considered in the final document.

“In response to the public comments we received, DTSC adjusted the prioritization process to streamline it in a manner that continues to protect the health of residents at properties with the highest levels of lead in soil and the greatest risk of exposure to that lead,” Nazemi said.

Regarding concerns over the timing of the cleanup, DTSC officials noted that cleanup operations were suspended last summer when concerns by residents and legislators led to a full environmental review, and the preparation of an environmental impact report that has been in the works ever since.

Community and environmental activists point out that the effort to clean up the hazardous waste, which started at least 5 years ago with calls for closing the plant, has dragged on for far too long.

Exposure to even low levels of lead have been proven to cause lifelong consequences to children in the form of learning disabilities and lower IQs, as well as other health issues.

Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said the two-year process to clean 2,500 properties “does not reflect the urgent risks that lead contamination poses to the people in these communities.

The Exide plant permanently closed in March 2015. When Exide agreed to close the lead-acid battery recycling plant, it committed to pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation providing a $176.6 million loan for environmental testing and cleanup work in neighborhoods surrounding the now-shuttered plant, with the testing expected to cover about 10,000 properties.

Environmental and health experts during several public hearings put the cost to fully remediate the toxic dangers at closer to $400 million.

DTSC officials said they ultimately plan to hold Exide and any other parties responsible for the contamination financially liable for the testing and cleanup.

Meanwhile, county officials say they will continue to press for a speedier remediation process.

“This wouldn’t be allowed to happen if this was Aliso Canyon,” said Solis, referring to the natural gas leaks in the more affluent community of Porter Ranch.

Oficiales del Condado Critican Plan Estatal de Limpieza Exide

July 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

La supervisora del condado de Los Ángeles, Hilda Solís, criticó un plan de limpieza lanzado por funcionarios estatales para vecindarios alrededor de la planta del reciclaje de baterías Exide en Vernon, diciendo que el plan se mueve demasiado lento y dejará a miles de residentes expuestos a peligrosos niveles de plomo.

“Esta comunidad ha sufrido lo suficiente, no sólo a manos de Exide, sino a manos de DTSC (el Departamento Estatal de Control de Sustancias Tóxicas), que permitió a Exide operar con un permiso temporal durante 33 años”, dijo Solís el lunes.

“El plan de limpieza final de DTSC ignora muchas de las preocupaciones razonables planteados por los miembros de la comunidad”.

La semana pasada, DTSC lanzó su plan de limpieza diciendo que unas 2,500 propiedades con el suelo más contaminando serán los objetivos del esfuerzo de limpieza que tomará dos años.

Según el departamento, el esfuerzo de limpieza se llevará a cabo en las propiedades dentro de 1,7 millas de la planta, dando prioridad a:

  • casas con concentraciones de plomo en el suelo de 400 partes por millón o más;
  • las propiedades residenciales con la concentración total de plomo con menos de 400 partes por millón, pero donde se determinó que cualquier muestreo de suelo individual tenía una concentración de 1.000 ppm o superior;
  • guarderías y centros de cuidado infantil con concentraciones de plomo en el suelo de 80 ppm o más que aún no han sido limpiadas; y
  • todos los parques y escuelas que necesitan limpieza.

Las propiedades adicionales podrían ser limpiadas si hay fondos disponibles, dijeron los funcionarios.

(Department of Toxic Substance Abuse)

(Department of Toxic Substance Abuse)

Los reguladores estatales publicaron su plan dentro de los días en donde Solís y los funcionarios de salud pública del condado llamaron ineficaz el plan de limpieza del DTSC, diciendo que no identificará todas las propiedades que necesitan una limpieza acelerada. Acusaron a la agencia estatal de ignorar las recomendaciones del condado y de los residentes.

También sostienen que el plan de limpieza para el interior de los hogares no ofrece garantías de que las casas serán seguras para ocupar, ya que el plomo todavía puede ser rastreado desde el exterior.

Los funcionarios de DTSC insistieron, sin embargo, en que el plan de limpieza muestra el “fuerte compromiso de la agencia para proteger la salud de quienes viven en estas comunidades”.

“Este plan de limpieza es el resultado de más de un año de esfuerzo y aportación de la comunidad”, dijo Mohsen Nazemi, subdirector del Programa de Restauración y Conservación Ambiental de DTSC. “Hicimos tres reuniones públicas para solicitar comentarios y tuvimos un periodo de comentarios ampliado. Recibimos cerca de 1,000 comentarios públicos, que revisamos detalladamente y consideramos en el documento final.

“En respuesta a los comentarios públicos que recibimos, DTSC ajustó el proceso de priorización para simplificarlo de una manera que continúe protegiendo la salud de los residentes en las propiedades con los niveles más altos de plomo en el suelo y el mayor riesgo de exposición a ese plomo”, dijo Nazemi.

En cuanto a las preocupaciones sobre el momento de la limpieza, los funcionarios del DTSC señalaron que las operaciones de limpieza fueron suspendidas el verano pasado cuando las preocupaciones de los residentes y legisladores condujeron a una revisión ambiental completa y la preparación de un informe de impacto ambiental que ha estado funcionado desde entonces.

Bárbara Ferrer, directora del Departamento de Salud Pública del Condado de Los Ángeles, dijo que el proceso de dos años para limpiar 2,500 propiedades “no refleja los riesgos urgentes que la contaminación del plomo plantea a las personas en estas comunidades”.

La planta Exide se cerró permanentemente en marzo del 2015. Cuando Exide acordó cerrar la planta de reciclado de plomo-ácido de la batería, se comprometió a pagar $50 millones para la limpieza del sitio y los barrios circundantes. De esa cantidad, $26 millones se destina a ser reservado para la limpieza residencial.

El año pasado, el gobernador Jerry Brown firmo una legislación que proveía $176,6 millones en financiamiento para pruebas ambientales y trabajos de limpieza en vecindarios rodeando la ahora cerrada planta, esperando que las pruebas cubrieran unas 10,000 propiedades.

Los expertos del medio ambiente y salud durante varias audiencias públicas pusieron el costo para remediar completamente los peligros tóxicos en cerca de $400 millones.

Funcionarios de DTSC dijeron que en última instancia planean mantener a Exide y a cualquier otra parte responsable de la contaminación financiera responsable de las pruebas y limpieza.

Mientras tanto, los funcionarios del condado dicen que seguirán presionando para un proceso de remediación más rápido.

“Esto no se permitiría que ocurriera si se trataba de Aliso Canyon”, dijo Solís, refiriéndose a las fugas de gas natural en la comunidad más acomodada de Porter Ranch.

Exide: Nearby Residents Still Living in Fear

July 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Promises to clean up lead and other toxic waste has done little to calm the fears of people living in the shadow of the now closed Exide battery-recycling plant in Vernon, according to a just released survey.

Three out of four households surveyed during a massive volunteer outreach effort June 10 said they are concerned that they or someone in their home might get lead poisoning or cancer from the high levels of hazardous chemicals spewed from the plant for decades, the unscientific survey found.

More than 1,500 workers visited 16,000 homes in Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Maywood, East Los Angeles, Huntington Park and Vernon and over 4,200 health surveys were completed during the June 10 outreach event, county health officials reported last Friday.

“The results from the survey are alarming,” County Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement pointing out that there are large numbers of children and pregnant women living within the 1.7 mile radius targeted as having the highest potential for lead exposure and contamination.

She added that pregnant women and children are at higher risk for “poor health outcomes from exposure to lead and arsenic.”

Exposure to even low levels of lead have been proven to cause lifelong consequences to children in the form of learning disabilities and lower IQs, as well as other health issues.

“For far too long, people around the Exide plant suffered the consequences of lead and other chemical contaminations. Our residents living near Exide deserve better monitoring and follow-up, and we will continue to work with our Department of Public Health and residents to ensure that the necessary clean-up efforts move quickly for the health of our communities,” Solis said.

—Nearly half of households reported there are children under 6 years old who live or spend time in the home or yard.

—65% of households reported that their yards were tested for lead. More than half reported that they have not received the results from soil testing.

—Nearly half of the households reported they are not satisfied with the progress of the clean up activities.

The results of the survey were no surprise to community and environmental justice activists who have long complained that state regulators are moving too slowly to complete the clean up work.

“We’re counting on our elected officials to help us get the lead out of our neighborhoods, so that residents do not continue to be exposed to a known hazardous chemical,” Monsignor John Moretta of Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights was quoted as saying in a statement released by county health officials and Solis’ office.

The survey results show “The California Department of Toxic Substances Control continues to fail these communities that have borne unconscionable health and safety burdens,” said Gladys Limón with Communities for a Better Environment, “The state has the legal and moral duty to swiftly clean up the contamination and provide necessary health services,” she said.

Iris Verduzco with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice said it’s well known that “lead poisoning negatively impacts cognitive functions and makes educational attainment increasingly difficult. We know that Exide has been and continues to contribute to the lead poisoning that is impacting our communities, our families, and our children,” said Verduzco, explaining they have detected levels of lead “near parks and schools that are considered hazardous waste and unsafe for children and residents.”

All three activists called for urgency in completing blood and soil testing and the decontamination process.

“The survey highlights the need to act with urgency to prevent exposure to continued high levels of lead,” agreed Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, director of the county’s department of public health.

She said her department is continuing to work with other county agencies “and community partners to implement the recommendations to ensure that the residents are supported in their right to live in healthy neighborhoods and homes.”

DTSC is in the process of finalizing the required Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the decontamination process and in January the agency expedited the clean up of properties with the highest risk, including homes with children that tested positive for higher than acceptable levels of lead.

The agency will hold “office hours” today in Bell and in East Los Angeles on Monday, at which time they will help explain testing results to residents and answer any questions they may have. Another session will be held July 18 in Commerce; more details can be found in EGP’s Community Calendar.

The Exide plant permanently closed in March 2015. When Exide agreed to close the lead-acid battery recycling plant, it committed to pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup.

Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year signed legislation providing $176.6 million in funding for environmental testing and cleanup work in neighborhoods surrounding the now-shuttered plant.

Residentes Cerca de la Planta de Exide Preocupados por el Envenenamiento por Plomo

July 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Una mayoría de hogares cerca de la planta de reciclado de baterías de Exide en Vernon están preocupados de que alguien en su casa pueda tener cáncer o envenenamiento por plomo de materiales peligrosos, según una encuesta publicada el viernes 30 de junio.

La Agencia de Salud del Condado de Los Ángeles anuncio los resultados de su labor de divulgación de puerta en puerta el viernes, en el que más de 1,500 trabajadores visitaron 16,000 hogares en Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Maywood, este de Los Ángeles, Huntington Park y Vernon.

“Los resultados de la encuesta son alarmantes”, dijo la supervisora del condado Hilda Solís. “Durante demasiado tiempo, la gente alrededor de la planta de Exide han sufrido las consecuencias del plomo y otras contaminaciones químicas. Nuestros residentes que viven cerca de Exide merecen un mejor seguimiento y monitoreo, y seguiremos trabajando con el Departamento de Salud Pública y nuestros residentes para asegurar que los esfuerzos de limpieza necesarios se muevan rápidamente para la salud de nuestras comunidades”.

“La encuesta destaca la necesidad de actuar con urgencia para prevenir la exposición a los altos niveles de plomo”, dijo la directora de Salud Pública del Condado de Los Ángeles Bárbara Ferrer.

La encuesta se realizó el 10 de junio.

Los resultados de la encuesta incluyeron lo siguiente:

—Tres de cada cuatro hogares encuestados dijeron estar preocupados de que alguien en su casa podría tener cáncer o envenenamiento por plomo de materiales peligrosas;

—Casi la mitad de los encuestados dijeron no estar satisfechos con el progreso de las actividades de limpieza.

—65 por ciento de los hogares reportaron que sus patios delanteros fueron probados para el plomo. Más de la mitad dijo que aún no habían recibido los resultados.

La planta Exide se cerró permanentemente en marzo del 2015. Cuando Exide acordó cerrar la planta de reciclado de plomo-ácido de la batería, se comprometió a pagar $50 millones para la limpieza del sitio y los barrios circundantes. De esa cantidad, $26 millones se destina a ser reservado para la limpieza residencial.

A principios de este año el gobernador Jerry Brown firmo una legislación que proveía $176.6 millones en financiamiento para pruebas ambientales y trabajos de limpieza en vecindarios rodeando la ahora cerrada planta.

Fear of Cancer, Lead Poisoning Haunt People Living Near Closed Exide Plant

June 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A majority of households near the shuttered Exide battery-recycling plant in Vernon are concerned that someone in their home might   get cancer or lead poisoning from hazardous materials, according to a survey released today.

The Los Angeles County Health Agency announced the results of its door-to-door outreach effort today, in which more than 1,500 workers visited 16,000 homes in Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Maywood, East Los Angeles, Huntington Park and Vernon.

“The results from the survey are alarming,” County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “For far too long, people around the Exide plant suffered the consequences of lead and other chemical contaminations.

Our residents living near Exide deserve better monitoring and follow-up, and we will continue to work with our Department of Public Health and residents to ensure that the necessary clean-up efforts move quickly for the health of our communities.”

“The survey highlights the need to act with urgency to prevent exposure to continued high levels of lead,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The survey was conducted on June 10.

Survey results included the following:
— Three out of four households surveyed said they were concerned that someone in their home might get cancer or lead poisoning from hazardous materials;
— Nearly half of those surveyed said they are not satisfied with the progress of clean-up activities.
— 65 percent of households reported that their front yards were tested for lead. More than half said they had not received the results yet.

The Exide plant permanently closed in March 2015. When Exide agreed to close the lead-acid battery recycling plant, it committed to pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup.

Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year signed legislation providing $176.6 million in funding for environmental testing and cleanup work in neighborhoods surrounding the now-shuttered plant.

Door-to-Door Exide Campaign Kicks Off Saturday

June 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles County health officials and volunteers will be going door-to-door Saturday, visiting thousands of homes near the former Exide battery-recycling plant in Vernon to see if residents have health issues, link them with available services and provide them with educational materials.

“These residential communities have been unjustly exposed to hazardous living conditions for decades,” County Supervisor Hilda Solis said.

“Thousands of people still have not been given appropriate information about the contaminants or been connected to the appropriate resources to improve their lives.

“It is important we continue connecting our residents to the information and support they need to protect their health and their families,” she said.

Health officials and more than 1,500 community volunteers will be taking part in the outreach effort, visiting more than 20,000 homes within a 1.7-mile radius of the plant that closed in March 2015. The participants will survey residents about their health issues or concerns. The homes are in Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Maywood, East Los Angeles, Huntington Park and Vernon.

The outreach effort will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

After the effort, county health officials will prepare a report that will be publicly released.

“We want to ensure that the county understands the concerns of residents within the Exide area and that the residents are supported in their right to live in healthy neighborhoods and homes,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

County officials have been pressing state regulators to expedite the cleanup of about 400 homes closest to the plant, noting that they have hazardous waste-level lead contamination. The state has allocated millions of dollars toward testing and cleanup operations at homes near the plant, and

Exide committed to invest $50 million to remediation efforts at the plant and surrounding neighborhoods.

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