Victory for Westside Community!
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Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice

Centro de Acción Comunitaria y Justicia Ambiental 

Big Win
for San Bernardino
Westside Community!

Omnitrans Agrees to Remove Potentially

Explosive Gas Tanks from

Westside Residential Neighborhood


Two 30,000 gallon tanks like the one above were moved into the residential neighborhood several years ago.  
Finally they will be moved them out!

At the July 8, 2015, Inland Valley Environmental Justice Task Force meeting, hosted by the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice,  Omnitrans’ CEO/ General Manager, Scott Graham,  announced that the San Bernardino Transit Agency will remove the two 30,000 gallon tanks of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) from its facility at 1700 West 5th Street in San Bernardino.  The massive tanks of potentially explosive natural gas have long been a point of contention with the local residents who were concerned about the storage of natural gas in a residential neighborhood and next to an elementary school.   Mr. Graham explained that over the next year they will convert the facility to utilize a pipeline, eliminating the need for the massive storage tanks.   Estimates for completing the transition is June of 2015, Mr. Graham reported.  


“We applaud, Omnitrans’ action to remove the tanks”, said Teresa Flores Lopez, longtime residents of the Westside and avid critic of the fueling operation.  “We are very pleased that Omnitrans has finally listened and responded to our concerns.”

“While we acknowledge that the facility meets all its requirements, we remained concerned about the possibility of an accident” said Ericka Flores, community organizer for the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice and local resident.  “ No one plans for an accident to happen but they still do.  If a problem occurs with 60,000 gallons of natural gas, it should be in a place where there are few people, not in a residential area with a school across the street.” 
Over the last year, natural gas has been gaining use as coal and other fuel use is reduced.  As a result more and more reports of explosions and fires have taken place around the country.  Residents were concerned that with the storage of such a large amount of gas in one place so close to homes and schools that an accident would result in destruction of homes and many injuries and death.
For nearly two decades the presence of natural gas tanks in the neighborhood has raised concerns.  In 1998 residents started complaining about continuing leaks as indicated by the  natural gas odors during fueling activities at the facility.  Residents filed complaints to South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) under it’s odor nuisance rules each time they smelled the gas.   To address those concerns Omnitrans replaced the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) tanks with two massive tanks containing 30,000 gallons each of LNG and removed the odorant, methylmercaptan, which is used to warn of any gas releases.     Just this year there were two incidences near the facility, one that require evacuation of the employees at the facility.  Residents were concerned when they were not notified and neither were staff at the Ramona Alessandro Elementary School.  The Board of Education for the San Bernardino City Unified School District joined in calling for the removal of the tanks in a resolution issued approved last year.
“We look forward to working with Omnitrans during this transition period”, said Penny Newman, Executive Director of CCAEJ who has been working with the community to solve this issue.   Members of the EJ Task Force, a multi-agency task force made up of U.S. EPA,  Calif. Air Resources Board (ARB); Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC);  California Attorney General’s office; South Coast AQMD; local CUPA and others,  have monitored activity of the facility in the last two years and even conducted their own analysis.  Using a program called ALOHA, used by emergency response agencies to determine areas that would be impacted they developed a map showing the “Zone of Harm”.   The analysis calculated that a population of 1,739 people and 447 dwellings would be affected in a 0.3 miles radius around the facility.  The analysis did not take into account the presence of the elementary school, expanding the affected population by hundreds of children.
A recent report conducted for Omnitrans stated, “The facility’s tanks and its operation are state-of-the-art.  Explosions are still possible, but extremely unlikely.”  It goes on to state that if an explosion were to happen “the 95% potential injury scenarios may extend up to 880 feet from the facility boundary and 95% scenarios with the potential for severe injury may extend up to 175 feet from the facility boundary. “   “That’s our homes and our children”,  Teresa Flores Lopez points out!
Carlin Hafitz, Environmental Justice Coordinator for the Southern Regional office of EPA, offered to work with Omnitrans in developing an appropriate emergency notification program for both residents and the school district in case of an incidence. 


 Zone of Harm

The "Zone of Harm" was developed through the Task Force by the LA County Fire Department to calculate the area impacted if there was an accident.  
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