Annual Progress Report, 2013
Communities & Ecosystems
A Healthier I-710 Corridor
Los Angeles' I-710 corridor, which runs from the Ports of LA and Long Beach to East LA, has some of California's most pressing environmental challenges. EPA has been working with local agencies and community partners to reduce pollution.
The I-710 corridor is home to more than a million people, most of whom are low-income and minority. In response to diesel pollution and other challenges posed by movement of goods from the ports, EPA has focused enforcement and cleanup authorities along the corridor and is working collaboratively with local partners to improve public health.
Over the past three years, EPA conducted 216 facility inspections and took formal enforcement actions against 45 facilities. Violators paid a total of $1.7 million in penalties and invested $580,000 to comply with regulations and prevent more than 60,000 pounds of air pollution each year.
EPA and California's State Water Resources Control Board have partnered to accelerate cleanup of more than 100 abandoned gas station sites in the corridor. The agencies issued cleanup orders to responsible parties at nine sites. By late 2012, tanks had been removed at 11 sites and 38 cases were closed, clearing the way for redevelopment.
In Southgate, EPA oversees cleanup at former industrial sites such as the Cooper Drum Superfund site, where treatment of contaminated groundwater began in August 2012.
Air quality along the corridor could worsen if extra lanes are added to the I-710, as proposed by CalTrans. EPA reviewed the draft environmental impact statement for the project and in September 2012 recommended that CalTrans analyze a modified Zero-Emission Freight Corridor Alternative, with no I-710 widening, as a way to prevent increases in particulate pollution.
EPA has also partnered with and supported community organizations in addressing environmental challenges. For example, EPA's environmental justice (EJ) small grant funding has supported Community Services Unlimited in working with youth in South Central LA on healthy food and sustainable agriculture.
The Center for EJ and Community Action in Riverside used EPA children's health and indoor air grant funding to reach out to more than 1,200 students, parents and school staff; screen students for asthma and respiratory problems; and work with school staff on a curriculum for indoor air quality.
Addressing Uranium Contamination on the Navajo Nation
For the past five years, EPA has led a coordinated federal investment of more than $100 million to address uranium-related health risks.
EPA has spent more than $50 million over the past five years to clean up abandoned mines, provide safe drinking water, and demolish and replace Navajo homes contaminated by uranium. In addition to federal funds, EPA has used the Superfund law to compel responsible parties to spend $17 million on mine investigations and cleanups.
Cleanup work is still underway, and 20 Navajo Nation members who graduated from EPA's Superfund Job Training Initiative in December 2012 have been trained to help with the continuing effort. They were the first graduates from a tribal nation to participate in a Superfund Job Training program.
Work completed over the past five years has reduced some of the most urgent risks to Navajo residents by remediating 34 contaminated homes, providing safe drinking water to 1,825 families, and stabilizing or cleaning up nine abandoned mines. EPA also conducted field assessments of 240 water sources and 520 mines, while Navajo Nation EPA assessed nearly 800 homes and other structures.
The Navajo Nation encompasses more than 27,000 square miles in the Four Corners area of Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. About four million tons of uranium ore was mined on the Navajo Nation from 1944 to 1986 for use in atomic weapons and nuclear power. Many Navajo people worked the mines, often raising their families close to the mines and mills.
There remain more than 500 abandoned mine claims and thousands of pits, trenches and holes with elevated levels of uranium, radium and other sources of radiation. Exposure to radiation can cause lung cancer, bone cancer and impaired kidney function.
EPA will continue to work with the Navajo Nation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Energy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Indian Health Service to further reduce risks from uranium on Navajo lands.
Focus on the San Joaquin Valley
EPA supports community-based problem solving through grants and technical assistance to address health threats posed by environmental hazards.
EPA's work in the San Joaquin Valley has been strengthened by engagement and support of a number of local efforts and organizations.
In Kern and Fresno counties, EPA partnered with Californians for Pesticide Reform and Fresno Metro Ministry, awarding a children's health grant and an environmental justice (EJ) grant to create Web-based systems to monitor, track and address environmental hazards: the Kern Environmental Enforcement Network (KEEN) and the Fresno Environmental Reporting Network (FERN).
These projects aim to improve enforcement of environmental health laws by creating partnerships between community members and local agencies, establishing task forces and removing barriers to reporting suspected environmental violations. To date, the KEEN and FERN websites have received nearly 80 reports of environmental violations.
Another EJ grant supported Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice's project to reduce diesel emissions in Kettleman City and Avenal through an effort to stop unnecessary truck and bus engine idling. Among the results were the signing of "Good Neighbor" agreements by nine local businesses. Participants included community members, businesses, truckers, trucking companies, schools and bus drivers.
In some parts of the valley, drinking water wells are contaminated with nitrate, arsenic and other chemicals. Under an EPA EJ grant, the Community Water Center's (CWC) Protecting Groundwater from the Ground Up project has provided assistance to 25 communities and worked with 141 residents from Fresno, Hanford, Modesto, Visalia, Delano, Merced, Lodi and surrounding areas to increase understanding of drinking water pollution and how it can prevented. It also trained 28 community members to participate in decision-making processes at various levels of government.
In addition, CWC leveraged additional funding to provide direct organizing, technical and advocacy assistance to 19 communities with water problems in San Joaquin Valley and Coachella Valley.
In Fresno, EPA has been working with a team of federal agencies to support the city's plans for economic growth and revitalization.
As the lead agency in the Fresno pilot of the White House Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative, EPA is advancing its mission to protect public health and the environment by supporting the mayor's goals of redeveloping downtown Fresno and reversing decades of growth outward into some of the world's most productive agricultural land.