Sups. Seek Study of Exide, Aliso Canyon Health Effects

September 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Board of Supervisors called Tuesday for studies of the long-term health effects of the massive Aliso Canyon gas leak and lead contamination from the now-shuttered Exide battery-recycling plant.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich recommended the study related to the natural gas leak that began Oct. 23 at the Southern California Gas Co. storage facility and was shut down 16 weeks later, on Feb. 11.

Supervisor Hilda Solis asked that Antonovich’s motion be expanded to include a similar study for the neighborhoods surrounding the Exide plant in Vernon.

The board’s vote was unanimous in asking staffers to work with the South Coast Air Quality Management District to develop a study.

A SoCalGas spokesman said the utility has agreed to spend up to $400,000 to fund the Aliso Canyon study but is waiting for AQMD officials to propose a plan.

Thousands of residents were displaced from their Porter Ranch homes due to the gas leak. Once the well was sealed and residents returned, some continued to complain of headaches, respiratory and skin irritation.

County health officials reported surface dust in many homes contained “low levels of metal contaminants” consistent with those found in well-drilling fluid. They suggested that the contaminants could be the source of symptoms but said the metals did not pose long-term health risks.

The utility stepped in to clean roughly 1,700 homes of those metals.

Tuesday, some residents told the board they are still suffering and the interim director of the Department of Public Health reminded the supervisors that the “gas leak was unprecedented in the history of this country.”

In the case of the Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant, soils tests in surrounding communities have found significant levels of lead contamination.

State officials have set aside $176.6 million in funding for environmental testing and cleanup work in neighborhoods within a 1.7-mile radius of the closed plant.

The facility permanently closed in March 2015 after years of failing to meet state standards for operating the plant.

After the board meeting, Solis hailed Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of Assembly Bill 2153, which charges a fee on lead-acid car batteries to help fund clean up contaminated areas.

“We celebrate a victory for communities surrounding the Exide and Quemetco facilities,” Solis said. “AB 2153 will provide much needed clean-up of lead-contaminated soil from thousands of homes surrounding these facilities.”


Local Students Breathing Easier

October 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Students at Murchison Street Elementary School in Boyle Heights are breathing cleaner air thanks to a new air filtration system provided through the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The classroom filters, installed in June and September, are expected to remove more than 90 percent of ultra fine particulates, based on post-installation monitoring and classroom testing conducted by the SCAQMD.

Murchison Street Elementary serves families living in the Ramona Gardens public housing project.

“Ramona Gardens community is highly impacted by poor air with its close proximity to a 12-lane highway, an industrial zone and a railroad line,” state Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said Wednesday. “Children sleep and play just steps from the freeway, contributing to high asthma rates which affects school attendance.”

Over 500 students at Murchison Street Elementary School enjoy cleaner air, thanks to a new filtration system installed on the Boyle Heights campus over the summer. (EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Over 500 students at Murchison Street Elementary School enjoy
cleaner air, thanks to a new filtration system installed on the Boyle Heights campus over the summer. (EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Christian Sanchez has two children at Murchison and he told EGP Wednesday that he’s very happy they will now be breathing cleaner air.

“It’s very good for the kids,” Sanchez said in Spanish. He said his six-year-old child who suffers from asthma is already feeling better. “He used to cough a lot before but now he’s coughing less.”

The air filtration system, which took about a year to install and cost $400,000, is the result of partnership between the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), Los Angeles Unified School District, the non-profit Legacy LA and De Leon.

Jose Huerta, administrator of operations for LAUSD, said it’s estimated students spend 30% of their day in the classroom.

“I was speaking to a little 5th grader earlier and she told me she has friends who were coughing and sneezing all the time and now, with the new air filtration system they don’t do that anymore,” Huerta told EGP.

Senator De Leon told EGP children from the Ramona Gardens and nearby communities breath “very harmful pollutants that impact their health” and asthma has become the number one cause of absences in the public school system.

“I’m very proud youth leaders in this community have worked to make a difference in cleaning up the air they breathe by working with AQMD … to make sure that children in Ramona Gardens have clean air in their classrooms,” said De Leon.

Parents and students were aware of the high pollutants that contaminate the air and air filters are the solution they came up with, according to the school’s principal, Jeremiah Gonzalez. “Alumni who are in college now and high school students who attended this school were able to spearhead this project and these new generations are now benefiting,” he told EGP.

“You won’t be able to feel it or sense it through a newspaper article or television, but it is remarkable, clean, fresh, pure air,” emphasized De Leon.

The project is one of several programs under SCAQMD’s Clean Communities Plan. So far, a total of eight schools in the Boyle Heights area have received air filtration systems including Sunrise, Second Street, Resurrection, Soto, Santa Isabel and Santa Teresita elementary schools, according to AQMD spokesperson Tina A. Cox.

Information from CNS used in this report.

Twitter @jackiereporter

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