CCAEJ Toxic Tour with Senator Connie Leyva
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Senator Connie Leyva Joins CCAEJ and Residents in Up Close and Personal View of Her District


State Senator Connie Leyva (SD 20) joined CCAEJ and local residents in seeing for herself the challenges some of her communities face on a daily basis.  She visited  communities like Pomona, Bloomington, Colton and the Westside of the City of San Bernardino to better understand the issues of environmental justice. 
Environmental Justice communities are disadvantaged communities with high levels of pollution and poverty and low levels of amenities like parks, fresh food, recreation, job opportunities, and services.   A new tool - CalEnviroScreen - makes it easy to identify these communities through its on-line compilation of data bases.  The communities Senator Leyva visited are all in the top 5-10% of the worst impacts from pollution and least access to opportunities.


The above picture was taken at CCAEJ satellite office in San Bernardino at the Ruben Campos Community Center. Over lunch Westside residents shared their concerns regarding two major facilities - Omnitrans with its storage of  60,000+ gallons of explosive natural gas; and Warren Buffet's BNSF Intermodal Rail Yard with the highest cancer risk of all rail yards in the state!


More than 60,000 gallons of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) and another 20,000 of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is stored a the Omnitrans facility on Medical Center Dr. and 5th Street. The gas is used to fuel the fleet of over 200 buses including the SBx Express bus line.  While we support using alternative fuels and the transit system itself, local residents wonder why they must risk a possible explosion from the storage and fueling process in their residential neighborhood.  The LA County Fire Department using the CalARP (California Accidental Release Program calculated that what they term the "Zone of Harm" would extend 0.03 miles encompassing 447 dwellings and impacting 1,739 people!  They did not know about the Ramona Alessandro Elementary School where more than 500 children attend school directly across the street.  The community has one request -



Warren Buffet's BNSF RAIL YARD

The Burlington Northern Satan Fe Intermodal facility in the Westside of San Bernardino sits in the middle of a community. The railyard has been known to have the highest cancer risk of all rail yards in the state at an alarming 3,300 in a million cancer risk (normal is 1 in a million. ARB, 2008). 

Given the results of the Health Risk Assessment, Loma Linda University launched a Health Study to determine the actual health status of local residents:

  • For all cancers: 23% elevation for white males and a 10% overall elevation.
  • Breast Cancer:  30% elevation among Hispanic Females
  • Lung/bronchus cancer: 78% excess among females in the high risk area (residents closest to the railyard);  34% elevated level for white females and 37% increase in white males throughout study area
  • Colon/rectal cancer: 44% increase among males
  • Pancreatic Cancer: 43% elevation for both sexes

Children's Respiratory Study: 47% of nearby elementary school children demonstrated asthma or asthma-like symptoms

Community Recommendations:

  1.  monitoring equipment at the railyard;
  2. move the gate away from the residents;
  3. require zero/near zero equipment;
  4. Install high performance filtration units on all homes in the area
  5. Provide a community health clinic for the neighborhood. 


We started our tour picking her and her staff at her Chino office in a van we dubbed the "Toxic Avenger" and set out for the tour.  


Under the driving skills of Chela Larios (CCAEJ's Policy Advocate) we traversed to Pomona to meet up with members of United Voices of Pomona for Environmental Justice.  Edgar and Pablo directed us around the southeast neighborhoods where major recycling facilities have invaded the community.  Mixed with homes and schools are several major facilities from spa manufacturer, wood,  metal, and garbage recycling facilities,  From the drive by one could smell the odors, see the piles of waste products wafting in the air.


To have so many in such a compact area mixed in with homes was very disturbing to us all. The newest facility is Pomona Valley Transfer Station owned by Valley Vista Services. The owners of the facility Former city of Industry Mayor David Perez is under investigation which seems to be overflowing to Pomona as well.  


Traveling along I-10 following the rail lines as they expand along Fontana and  Rialto we pull off to see the south side of the City of Colton.  Known as the home of the "Colton Crossing" the neighborhood has been surrounded by industrial facilities for years.  It is home of the Colton Rail yard, two Superfund sites, an auto shredding facility moved by National Metal from the City of Carson to Colton.  The Colton Crossing used $97.5 million of public funding to build a separation between two major rail road companies.  Warren Buffet's BNSF rail road and Union Pacific.  Colton is the only place in the nation where the two rail road companies lines cross.  The rail road argued that it created long delays and inconvenience to their operations having to wait for the other rail road locomotives to pass.  Residents argued that the two rail roads often block their travel into and out of the neighborhood and endanger their families and children as they walk to school.  The rail lines cut residents off from the rest of the community leaving them stranded. 



Next stop was Bloomington.  This unincorporated community is in the cross hairs of massive warehouses.  Senator Leyva stands with residents next to the lot where the proposed warehouse would be placed just feet from the Rocha's home. 
The view from the Rocha's home.  One thing science tells us is that the closer one is to a diesel source the greater the health risk.  At your fence is close! .  There is also a school a block from this location. 
Reports are that the County of San Bernardino is not even requiring environmental studies and appropriate mitigations for approve of the project.  This is one project CCAEJ will be following. 
CCAEJ and our members  want to thank Senator Connie Leyva for taking time to hear our concerns and see for herself the issues plaguing our communities.  We greatly appreciate her willingness to join with us to find solutions and improve our quality of life and health.
 Si se puede!
Copyright © 2015 Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, All rights reserved.

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