|Connecting the Spots
January 27, 2007
One of the reasons that so many people in
Richmond are concerned about “accidents” at Chevron is that the baseline
air pollution in parts of Richmond is already off the charts.
In a report that came out just yesterday, it was determined that children living within 1,500 feet of a freeway suffered substantial lung damage. In Richmond, that would be a strip over one-half mile wide and about 10 miles or more long along I-80 and I-580. That’s at least 5 square miles, or about 16% of Richmond’s land area. Since that land area includes large parts of uninhabited regional parks, it’s actually a lot more, maybe as much as 30%, affecting thousands of young children.
In another recent report,"Deluged by Diesel: Healthy Solutions for West County", it was found that diesel pollution in West County was more than 40 times the California average. Diesel pollution has been identified as one of the biggest health threats in California and is linked to cancer, heart disease, premature death, and other health problems. Other research shows that diesel soot can trigger and may even cause asthma. This is a serious concern for West County, which in some zip codes has double the asthma rate of the Contra Costa County average.
The two reports cited above relate only to vehicle, train and ship pollution. They don’t include point sources such as Chevron. Add in point sources, and it gets even worse. "If you live in a high-pollution area, and live near a busy road, you get a doubling" of the damage, said lead author, W. James Gauderman, an epidemiologist at USC's Keck School of Medicine. "Someone suffering a pollution-related deficit in lung function as a child will probably have less-than-healthy lungs all of his or her life."
Despite new rules regulating flaring, Chevron’s use of flares has increased dramatically over the last year.
In the last Chevron fire, Chevron and County officials could barely conceal their smirks as they recalled the smoke went largely toward Marin County, sort of an environmental justice, so to speak, showing those rich hot-tubbers for a short time that they can’t really buy their way out of the ‘hood.
Some of us are really concerned about this, and we want to take bold measures to penalize polluters. The City Council majority, however, still wants to “wait and see.” They want to leave it to other agencies, such as theBay Area Air Quality Management District to impose penalties. The problem is that those penalties are so small that they are just a cost of doing business for Chevron, a $100 billion multi-national corporation with record profits. And none of the fines go to Richmond.
Following are three media articles that provide additional details. I have one correction toCity Council Fails to Hold Chevron Responsible - Again, January 24, 2007. Jim Rogers joined Butt, Thurmond and McLaughlin in not supporting the “wait and see” motion. There is some good news, however. The City Council got closer than ever before on this issue. This time, we were just one vote away.
Posted on Thu, Jan. 25, 2007
RICHMOND: After release of report on 100-foot wall of flame, officials will vote whether to call company a nuisance
By John Geluardi
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
The Richmond City Council stalled a public hearing that would allow residents to comment on the possibility of declaring the Chevron refinery a perpetual nuisance.
With such a designation, the city would legally be able to fine Chevron for accidents, releases and fires that activate community warning systems.
By a 5-3-1 vote Tuesday night, the council put off considering the public hearing until Chevron releases a final report on last week's fire, during which a 100-foot column of flames shot from a crude oil facility and Point Richmond residents were warned to "shelter in place."
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Councilmen Tony Thurmond and Jim Rogers voted against the motion, and Councilman Tom Butt abstained.
"I see no reason to hold a public hearing until we have all the facts," said Councilman Nat Bates, who made the motion.
Chevron's report is expected to be released Feb. 14.
The warning system was heavily criticized after the Jan. 15 fire because it took more than an hour for the automated telephone dialer to begin calling 2,800 households with the shelter-in-place warning.
The council was initially considering an ordinance proposed by Butt that would have levied a fine of $6,000 a minute against any person, business or corporation that activated the warning systems -- alerts by siren and automated telephone calls -- by emitting potentially harmful discharges.
The refinery has had six accidents in the last seven years, and the stiff fine would reimburse the city for lost business, hardship on residents and damage to the city's reputation, Butt said. However, he stepped back from his original ordinance proposal in favor of a public hearing to discuss other options.
Butt's ordinance would start the clock ticking on the fine as soon as the warning system was activated and continue until the "all clear" signal was issued. Had the ordinance been in place last week, Chevron would have been fined $756,000 for the 126 minutes the warning was activated.
Contact John Geluardi at 510-262-2787 or email@example.com. Highways bad for children's lungs
USC study finds respiratory impairment greatest in kids who live near busy roads
- Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times
Friday, January 26, 2007
(01-26) 04:00 PST Los Angeles -- Children living near busy highways have significant impairments in the development of their lungs that can lead to respiratory problems for the rest of their lives, University of Southern California researchers have found in the largest and longest study of its kind.
The 13-year study of more than 3,600 children in 12 Southern California communities found that the damage from living near a freeway is about the same as that from living in communities with the highest pollution levels, the team reported Thursday in the online version of the medical journal Lancet.
"If you live in a high-pollution area, and live near a busy road, you get a doubling" of the damage, said lead author, W. James Gauderman, an epidemiologist at USC's Keck School of Medicine. "Someone suffering a pollution-related deficit in lung function as a child will probably have less-than-healthy lungs all of his or her life."
The greatest damage appears to be in the small airways of the lung, damage that is normally associated with the fine particulate matter emitted by automobiles.
There has been a growing body of research about the effects of air pollution on the lungs and cardiovascular system, but most have focused on short-term effects, linking pollution episodes to heart attacks, asthma attacks, hospitalization and so forth.
What is unique about this study is the large number of children involved and the length of time they were studied.
Gauderman and his colleagues recruited groups of fourth-grade students, average age 10, in 1993 and 1996. Their schools were scattered from San Luis Obispo to San Diego counties.
Once each year, the team visited the schools and measured the children's lungs, assessing how much air could be expelled in one breath and how quickly it could be expelled.
Results from the study reported in 2004 indicated that children in the communities with the highest average levels of pollution suffered the greatest long-term impairment of lung function.
In the new study, Gauderman and his colleagues found that, by their 18th birthday, children who lived within 500 yards of a freeway had a 3 percent deficit in the amount of air they could exhale and a 7 percent deficit in the rate at which it could be exhaled, compared with children who lived at least 1,500 yards from a freeway. The effect was independent of overall pollution levels.
The most severe impairment was observed in children living near freeways in the communities with the highest average pollution.
"Even if you are in a relatively low regional pollution area, living near a road produces (lung problems)," Gauderman said.
About a third of the children moved during the course of the study but stayed in the same community. Lung impairment was smaller among those who moved farther from the freeways.
The finding is important "because it shows that within communities some children are at higher risk than others," wrote Dr. Thomas Sandstrom and Dr. Bert Brunekreef in an editorial accompanying the paper. "Thus, environmental equity is an issue of local rather than regional dimensions."
Solutions Abound to West Contra Costa County
Forty Times More Diesel Soot Released in West County per Area Than California as a Whole
UPDATE: The June 21, 2006 West County Times reported that a plan is underway to bring a crematorium to Richmond. Many fear that this will mean more air pollution for an area already beleaguered. The Pacific Institute has actively worked to find solutions West County's environmental problems, and is against any effort to introduce more pollution to the region.
Last year, the Pacific Institute released an assessment of air pollution in West County. "Deluged by Diesel: Health Solutions for West County" was released on July 18, 2005, but it's findings and recommendations are just as relevant 11 months later. To learn more about this analysis, read below or download the report at right.
Residents of West Contra Costa County are exposed to far more than their fair share of toxic diesel pollution, but solutions to reduce diesel pollution abound. That's the central message of a new report released today by a coalition of concerned organizations and available online without charge."Deluged by Diesel: Healthy Solutions for West County" will be presented at the San Pablo City Council meeting on July 18 and to the Richmond Public Safety Committee and to the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors subsequently. The report, which is based on resident-conducted research and expert analysis, looks at innovative ways to reduce pollution in residential areas, and improve community health. It was developed by a coalition that includes, the Neighborhood House of North Richmond, Community Health Initiative, West County Toxics Coalition, Contra Costa Health Services, and the Pacific Institute.
"Diesel pollution is the number one toxic air pollutant in California and West County residents are exposed to far more than their fair share," said Meena Palaniappan, Senior Research Associate with the Pacific Institute. "But, the good news is, there are a host of solutions that can cut diesel soot, clean-up the air, and help protect the region, without harming the economy."
According to the report, there is an estimated 6 times more diesel pollution released per square mile in West County than in the County as a whole, and 40 times more than in California. Diesel pollution has been identified as one of the biggest health threats in California and is linked to cancer, heart disease, premature death, and other health problems. Other research shows that diesel soot can trigger and may even cause asthma. This is a serious concern for West County, which in some zip codes has double the asthma rate of the Contra Costa County average.
"I have a young granddaughter who suffers from asthma and the study let me know that there is quite a lot of diesel soot in my house -- more than I expected," said Lee Jones, a resident in West County whose house was monitored as part of an indoor air study and a staff member of Neighborhood House of North Richmond. "Now I know how polluted our air is, I'm going to buy an air filter for my granddaughter's room - but what about people who don't realize the problem or can't afford a filter? We need solutions that benefit the whole community."
Using an aethalometer - a device that measures the amount of soot in the air - researchers estimated the level of soot, a marker for diesel pollution in West County homes. The indoor air-study component of the report found levels of black soot that were 4 times higher than a home in Lafayette, which is also in Contra Costa County, but is further away from industrial sources.
The report recommends a host of solutions developed by community residents and project partners to address the threat of diesel pollution. These include financial incentives to get the dirtiest trucks off the road or retrofitted, better enforcement of a 5-minute idling law, zoning and land use policies to limit land use conflicts between residential areas and sources of diesel pollution, and the creation of a regional truck route with signs and other outreach to ensure that drivers know the best route to avoid residential areas.
Report is available online:http://www.pacinst.org/reports/west_county_diesel