On October 23rd U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was joined by local community leaders and advocates from across New Jersey and the nation in announcing a landmark bill that represents a major step toward eliminating environmental injustice.
This Bill would strengthen protections for communities of color, low-income communities and indigenous communities.
More specifically the Bill:
Codifies and expands the 1994 Executive Order on Environmental Justice.
Codifies the existing National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) and environmental justice grant programs.
Establishes requirements for federal agencies to address environmental justice.
Requires consideration of cumulative impacts and persistent violations in federal or state permitting decisions under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
Clarifies that communities impacted by events like the Flint water crisis may bring statutory claims for damages and common law claims in addition to requesting injunctive relief.
Reinstates a private right of action for discriminatory practices under the Civil Rights Act.
“For too long low income and communities of color in this country have suffered under the weight of cumulative, chronic and disproportionate pollution. This bill is a reminder of how critical it is to protect and restore these communities,” said Ana Baptista, Board Member, Ironbound Community Corporation.
“We must adopt substantive policies that will provide protections for communities Of Color and low-income communities from harmful pollution. This bill would help those communities and we hope everybody gives it the serious consideration it deserves,” said Dr. Nicky Sheats, Esq., New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance.
“As a Newark School Board member and a mother of 3 kids with asthma, it’s clear environmental justice is a civil right. In my city and so many other EJ communities, there’s too much lead in our drinking water, raw sewage in our waterways and diesel emissions sending kids to the ER. Those are the kind of cumulative impacts Senator Booker’s legislation takes on,” said Kim Gaddy, Clean Water Action’s Environmental Justice Organizing Director.
More information: https://www.
This is an excellent article written by Luis Olmedo and Humberto Lugo of MFN member organization Comite Civico Del Valle, and others. Check it out and consider – could this be a roadmap for your community group?
To learn more, register for the Community-Based Air Monitoring Webinar to be held on Thursday, August 24 from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. EDT
The Imperial County Community Air Monitoring Network: A Model for Community-based Environmental Monitoring for Public Health Action
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The Imperial County Community Air Monitoring Network (the Network) is a collaborative group of community, academic, nongovernmental, and government partners designed to fill the need for more detailed data on particulate matter in an area that often exceeds air quality standards. The Network employs a community-based environmental monitoring process in which the community and researchers have specific, well-defined roles as part of an equitable partnership that also includes shared decision-making to determine study direction, plan research protocols, and conduct project activities. The Network is currently producing real-time particulate matter data from 40 low-cost sensors throughout Imperial County, one of the largest community-based air networks in the United States. Establishment of a community-led air network involves engaging community members to be citizen-scientists in the monitoring, siting , and data collection process. Attention to technical issues regarding instrument calibration and validation and electronic transfer and storage of data is also essential. Finally, continued community health improvements will be predicated on facilitating community ownership and sustainability of the network after research funds have been expended. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP1772
Communities and regulatory agencies are discovering the utility of small, low-cost environmental sensors that are able to provide real-time information on air pollution (Jiao et al. 2016; Snyder et al. 2013; Yi et al. 2015). These sensors hold great promise for individuals, communities, schools, and other interested parties by providing timely information that can supplement regulatory data used to reduce toxic exposures and influence environmental health policy and programs. Using these new technologies presents challenges in ensuring scientific validity of the data and visualizing and communicating scientific information in a comprehensible manner.
The Imperial County Community Air Monitoring Network (the Network), one of the largest community-based air monitoring networks in the United States, is an innovative model that addresses these challenges through a community, academic, nongovernmental, and government partnership that integrates knowledge and priorities from community and academic research perspectives. In this community-engaged process, community members play key roles in determining study design, siting and deploying monitors, and data collection. The Network is now producing real-time particulate matter data from 40 low-cost sensors throughout the county.
A Community Affected by Air Pollution
Imperial County in southern California is home to a primarily Latino population (82%) and has some of the highest rates of unemployment and poverty in the nation (U.S. Census 2010). The county is mainly desert and agricultural, with a range of air pollution sources—such as field burning, the U.S.–Mexico border crossing, unpaved roads, and various industrial facilities—that contribute to periods lasting longer than 6 months when Imperial County exceeds the California standard for particulate matter (PM) with an aerodynamic diameter of 10 μm or less (PM10) (CARB 2012). Historically, Imperial far surpasses all other California counties as having the highest rates of both emergency hospital visits and hospitalizations for asthma among school-age children (CEHTP 2017). El Centro, California, located in the Imperial Valley, is the city with the fifth-worst air quality in the U.S. (ALA 2016). Exposure to PM10 is associated with increased respiratory disease, decreased lung function, and asthma attacks in susceptible individuals (Anderson et al. 2012). According to the California Air Resources Board, in 2015, the last year in which data were available, the Salton Sea air basin, where Imperial County is located, had 128 d that exceeded the state standards for PM10(https://www.arb.ca.gov/adam/topfour/topfour1.php). This finding means that, for more than one third of the year, residents may be at risk of breathing outdoor air that exceeds the maximum amount of PM that would not harm public health. Even when air quality is within state standards, the health of the population will likely suffer, as arguably no health threshold level exists for PM; for example, an analysis of daily time series data for the 20 largest U.S. cities for 1987–1994 found no threshold for particulate air pollution on daily mortality (Daniels et al. 2000), and Vaduganathan et al. found that increased levels of PM10, even below the current limits set by the European Union, were associated with excess risk for admissions for acute cardiovascular events (Vaduganathan et al. 2016).
Community Needs for Local-level Air Quality Information
Governmental regulatory air monitors are designed to measure ambient air in communities to ensure that federal and state air-quality standards for the protection of public health are met. However, regulatory monitoring does not have the spatial resolution to provide information to the public in the specific communities where they live, work, and play. Further, regulatory monitors are not designed to report on episodic elevated events (i.e., high-concentration events may be qualified as “exceptional events” and removed from regulatory consideration), which are of concern to communities due to acute health events that occur during peak concentrations.
These limitations play out in Imperial County, where understanding, awareness, and effective response to air pollution trends have been hindered by the fact that there are only five regulatory PM monitors for a county that spans over 4,000 square miles and is home to 175,000 individuals. Residents have noted that these monitors often do not seem to reflect the air quality in their local communities, voiced concerns that the monitoring data are sometimes not displayed during elevated events, and identified the need for more air monitors.
Opportunities with Next Generation Air Sensor Technology
Recent advances in small portable and personal air monitors or sensors, which are low cost in comparison with conventional monitors, potentially may provide higher temporal and spatial resolution of air quality data than currently exists from regulatory networks (Jerrett et al. 2015; Duvall et al. 2016; Han et al. 2017; Jovašević-Stojanović et al. 2015; Volckens et al. 2016). The accessible cost, ease of use, and improving accuracy of these technologies position them to play an important role in efforts by communities and researchers to identify sources and trends in air quality that may inform policies and plans to reduce emissions and exposures. Both personal and community responses to these new data can be important public health actions that may emerge from monitoring.
To address community concerns about air quality, a collaborative of community, academia, nonprofit, and government partners formed the Imperial County Community Air Monitoring Project (the Project). Funded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Science’s Research to Action Program, the Project used an innovative approach to facilitate community participation and decision-making throughout the development and deployment of the Network and to address concerns about scientific validity and sustainability.
Project Partnerships and a Community Engagement Structure
A crucial component of our approach was to establish an equitable and inclusive community engagement structure that ensured participation at multiple levels throughout the project by various community representatives. The initial step of identification of study partners occurred naturally through a long-standing relationship between Comite Civico del Valle (CCV), a community-based organization in Imperial County, and the California Environmental Health Tracking Program (CEHTP), a program of the nongovernmental Public Health Institute, in collaboration with the California Department of Public Health. The third main study partner, the Seto research group at University of Washington (UW), was identified through relationships with CEHTP, as were other academic partners affiliated with University of California at Los Angeles and George Washington University, who served in an advisory capacity. Distinct roles for the partnering organizations were established from the start. CEHTP provided epidemiological, community engagement, health education, and project-management expertise. UW provided exposure assessment expertise, equipment customization and assembly, and monitor-operation and validation capabilities. CCV provided local community knowledge and relationships and community outreach and organizing expertise, and CCV was ultimately responsible for interfacing with monitor sites and maintenance of the monitoring network. UCLA provided expertise to the community and academic partners on the health effects of air pollution, and George Washington University provided technical consultation on the monitoring of ambient particles.
The project engaged with residents in Imperial County via the establishment of a Community Steering Committee (CSC), recruitment of community participants to help site monitors, and identification of local sites to serve as hosts for the air monitors. The CSC—composed of local leaders and residents concerned about the environment—worked with the Project staff on all aspects of study design and implementation, provided feedback on data communication, and participated in the development of actions to reduce exposures and pollution sources. Government regulatory agencies (in this case, the local air pollution control agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency (California EPA), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), were engaged through participation on a Technical Team, composed of local government, academic, and other technical experts. The technical team was convened semiannually to provide technical advice and expertise on the exposure assessment methodologies and calibration results. Government agencies were contacted to provide portable reference monitors for co-location studies, to provide technical assistance to communities and the researchers, and to receive feedback on community needs.
Defining the Goals for Community Air Monitoring
Components of establishing a community-based air monitoring network are shown in Figure 1. Because it was essential to have an established research question or surveillance need to guide the Project’s activities, this was determined at the start with partners to ensure responsiveness to community needs. The study partners defined broad goals for the Network that included the ability to use the air monitoring data to inform community members about air quality in real time, as well as to generate data that are appropriate for conducting spatial analysis to identify air pollution hot spots and trends. We also continued to refine the goals by incorporating priorities of the CSC and community participants, determined through individual key informant interviews and group discussions to learn about community air quality information needs, uses, sources, and barriers. In turn, these goals provided guidance as we designed the Network and prepared to share monitoring data with the community. In this manner, the study protocol was developed with significant input from the community partner. Furthermore, at that time, the project partners and CSC helped to develop a project-evaluation plan to assess how well these goals were achieved. The evaluation plan included surveys of CSC members, community participants, and other users of the air monitoring data; web analytics; and key informant interviews of project partners.
Preparing the Network Equipment and Data Collection Infrastructure
The monitor selected for this study, a modified Dylos DC1700 (Dylos Corporation), was tested in the lab and field for limits of detection, responses to particles of varying composition, ability to accurately size particles, and precision between multiple monitors at multiple field sites with different environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity. The Dylos is a light-scattering particle counter, and as such, particle counts were converted to mass concentrations to align with health recommendations that are usually based on the latter. Algorithms to convert counts to mass were developed based on co-location of the instruments with government reference instruments in the region, modeling the relationship between counts and mass and using this relationship to estimate mass concentrations. The monitor system included the Dylos particle sensor with four size bins (>0.5 μm, >1.0 μm, >2.5 μm and >10 μm), temperature and relative humidity sensors, and a microcontroller to allow wireless real-time data transfer to the Internet. The monitor components were housed in a box with a cooling fan to sustain optimal sensor performance under Imperial County’s harsh summer conditions (Figure 2).
Monitors were validated and calibrated with reference monitors. In our case, the California EPA participated by providing access to their Calexico, California, site, where they operate federal reference and federal equivalent methods for measuring PM, as well as co-locating portable Beta-attenuation particulate matter monitors at sites that we selected for our community air monitors. Additionally, data collection and data transfer protocols were established, along with quality control plans. This process included addressing issues such as establishment of data feeds, data averaging over time, and data completion checks, as well as formatting data for display and hosting the Web services that allow the public to view the data in real time.
Designing and Deploying the Network
Monitor siting was accomplished by having community members identify, collect data about, and prioritize potential monitor locations in impacted communities throughout the county. The participants in this prioritization process included the CSC and additional community residents who were recruited for this aspect of the project. To facilitate these community members’ meaningful participation in the monitor siting process, the project team provided basic training in air monitoring science, including explanation of technical criteria (e.g., electrical power availability, wireless connection capability, absence of obstructions, secure location) for monitoring siting. This community-engaged process was used to identify locations for the first 20 monitors. An iterative process was used in which monitoring data from the first set of 20 monitors helped determine sites for the second set. The selection of the second 20 monitor locations was guided by the research staff, with input from the CSC, to ensure that monitors were located in areas where a spatially representative model could be constructed using land use regression techniques (Briggs et al. 1997). CCV played a critical role in recruitment of monitor hosts. CCV staff members were also trained to deploy the monitors and conduct routine maintenance and troubleshooting.
Producing Community-relevant and Accessible Information
Researchers and the community members discussed which air quality measures were most useful and how the data would be visualized and communicated to the public. The CSC was presented with several options for data presentation to determine the most understandable and useful approach. The existing community website and data platform titled Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods (IVAN) was redesigned and built out to include the data from the Network, called IVAN Air Monitoring (IVAN-Imperial.org/air). The Project staff developed messaging about interpreting the data, information on air quality and health, and technical information on the monitors and pollution levels, which is also posted on the IVAN website.
Moving Data to Action
Ultimately, the goal of the Network is to provide data and information to community residents to help them engage in individual and community actions to improve health. CCV has extensive knowledge and expertise in outreach, education, advocacy, and organizing. By involving the CSC and other community residents throughout the Project, CCV was more readily able to engage them in ongoing actions than in the past. To support the deployment and utilization of the Network, the Project team developed a two-phase public health action-planning process in which the CSC and other community participants were trained in community action planning strategies, identified and prioritized public health concerns, and developed action plans to address those concerns. With the completion of the Network, the second phase of public health actions will focus specifically on air quality, which may include actions such as outreach to school communities about air quality and health; devising plans for schools to shelter in place during a poor-air-quality days, especially for students with asthma; sharing data trends with local officials to advocate for regulatory action; and training schools with a community monitor to use a flag system to notify the school community about the current air-quality level.
This Network was designed from the outset to be community owned and operated, which will require that the community has the resources, knowledge, and capacity to sustain it. A critical component of supporting an ongoing network is the operation and maintenance of the monitoring equipment, as well as upgrading of software and hardware as needed. As part of ongoing project activities, CCV staff has already received training and assumed responsibility for monitor installation, as well as in troubleshooting monitor hardware and software issues. Furthermore, although technical expertise from a consultant on retainer can provide periodic review to ensure the scientific accuracy of the project, the Network should not have to rely on external technical infrastructure. For example, project data were initially stored on UW data servers but have now been migrated to a cloud service provider so that ownership of the data and the server software may be transferred to the community before the conclusion of the initial grant. This step is critical to ensure sustainability of the program and accessibility of the data after the grant funding period ends. Finally, a key component of sustainability is the continuation of community action planning and community-training activities. The CSC provides an existing structure through which community members can participate directly in the outreach, dissemination, and use of air monitoring data in the broader community. CCV and the CSC can also play a role in community-member mentoring, so that the next generation is interested and prepared to operate the Network.
Who should financially sustain a community-based air monitoring network? Although the community will own the Network and has an interest in its continued operation, they have limited access to funding streams and few available resources. Government agencies may be motivated to maintain and ensure quality data from such projects, as these data help fulfill their mission to provide useful data for community members and can supplement information from regulatory monitors. One example in California is the California Air Resources Board’s Supplemental Environmental Project Policy (available from a file linked at https://www.arb.ca.gov/enf/seppolicy.htm). This policy “allows community-based projects to be funded from a portion of the penalties received during settlement of enforcement actions.” Policies like these can provide some continued support for air monitoring network sustainability.
Several main themes emerge from this project that can be applied to other settings. First, a clearly defined purpose for monitoring must exist, with an understanding of how data may inform action. Roles and responsibilities of all study partners need to be clear from the onset; if this is done correctly, it will ensure that critical functions are covered and adequately funded, it will manage expectations and avoid miscommunication, and it will identify opportunities for knowledge transfer and capacity building. The community, researchers, and government agencies all have an important role to play, and the project resources should be equitably distributed among them. Scientific information must be presented in an accurate and accessible manner and tailored to the cultural and socioeconomic attributes of the community in question. Data must be understandable and useful for the public to apply in public health campaigns. Next-generation environmental monitors, although relatively easy to install, should not be considered reliable and accurate without rigorous calibration and testing; monitors later may experience technical issues, such as connectivity problems that may affect data completeness. Further, due to dust accumulation on the lens of the particle counter, measurement drift can occur over time; therefore, a regular maintenance schedule is essential. In addition, sustaining a project after dedicated funding ends is difficult; therefore, emphasis on community involvement and training during the project period, as well as novel fundraising and interest from regulatory agencies, can ensure that the project continues to collect useful data into the future.
Current availability of real-time and neighborhood-scale data on PM levels can be used as an agent of change. Residents are now equipped with data that they can use to better identify when and where residents are safe outside; to change personal behaviors to reduce exposures; and to advocate for policy changes that more aggressively reduce PM sources. Community engagement and uses of citizen science are becoming more common in influencing public health practice (Den Broeder et al. 2016). In Imperial County, we have emphasized the importance of the development of a sustainable air-monitoring network that is community owned and operated and producing data that are valid for community and traditional research. The project has increased community knowledge and capacity about the process required to set up and maintain monitors, and community partners are now empowered to initiate and collect air data for themselves. With this new information, understanding, and capacity, the community is better prepared to engage and collaborate with government around air monitoring and policy than in the past. Increased availability of actionable independent data and technical capacity to operate the hardware and software network components allow residents to have greater control over their lives and enhance the health of their community members.
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01ES022722. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
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We received the notice below by email from the EPA Environmental Justice Listserv. For a heads up on what how their modeling tool works and what it does, check out this video.
Easy Modeling to Assess and Address Near-Road Air Quality
Thursday 20 April 2017 at 2pm – 3:30pm Eastern
Sometimes the groups most exposed to near-road air pollution are also the most disadvantaged and marginalized to do something about it. Land values near roads are typically devalued because of noise, pollution, and visual blight. Long-term exposure to near-road pollution can have serious health effects, contributing to diseases such as cancer and respiratory illness; and short term exposure can exacerbate existing conditions, like childhood asthma attacks. Children, elderly, and folks with pre-existing conditions are especially sensitive to roadway pollution.
This webinar will present the Community-LINE Source Model (C-LINE) (https://www.epa.gov/
healthresearch/community-line- source-model-c-line-estimate- roadway-emissions): a scientifically sound, near-road air pollution model that plays almost like a video game, available to any user with a computer or tablet.
C-LINE allows users to not only evaluate what is going on in their local area, but also what might happen if things change, such as from increases in traffic or diesel trucks cutting through town. Users can easily manipulate model inputs to also examine upwind and downwind effects, or estimate the areas most influenced annually by near-road pollution. In addition to roads, railways and railyards, ports, ships, and industrial sources also influence near-source neighborhoods.
The model is being further developed to include these and other sources for public use. Would you use this model? How? How might we help you do that? Learn more in this interactive webinar!
C-Line Webinar – Estimating Roadway Emissions in Communities with EJ Concerns
Date: Thursday 20 April 2017
Time: 2pm – 3:30pm Eastern
Betsy Smith is a research biologist in the EPA Office of Research and Development. She has worked for the Agency for 20 years primarily in the areas of interdisciplinary science using spatial analysis to identify patterns and trends that can inform local- to national-scale decision-making. Betsy is currently the lead for EPA’s Sustainable Port Communities Study.
Tim Barzyk is a research scientist at the EPA. Tim works with community organizations, state and local agencies, EPA Regions and Program Offices, and academic partners to develop and apply near-source air quality models, citizen science portable sensor technologies, and decision analysis methods for use in local scale environmental health assessments. While focused on environmental health, his research acknowledges that local values and knowledge about social, environmental, and economic conditions must inform the assessment process in order to support evidence-based decision making by local residents, policy makers, or commercial interests to improve environmental conditions.
Vlad Isakov is a research scientist at the EPA. His current research focuses on the development and testing through applications and innovative approaches to model spatially and temporally resolved air quality concentrations in support of exposure and health studies.
If you are not already a member, the Office of Environmental Justice would like to invite you to join the EJ ListServ. The purpose of this information tool is to notify individuals about activities at EPA in the field of environmental justice. By subscribing to this list you will receive information on EPAs activities, programs, projects grants and about environmental justice activities at other agencies. Noteworthy news items, National meeting announcements, meeting summaries of NEJAC meetings, and new publication notices will also be distributed. Postings can only be made by the Office of Environmental Justice. To request an item to be posted, send your request to email@example.com and indicate in the subject “Post to EPA-EJ ListServ”
This is an educational conference that will provide data, insights and shared practices to create more effective policies and strategies for communities impacted by ports, rail yards, intermodal facilities, distribution centers, trucking routes and other goods movement activities.
To receive more information, sign up here.
Since its inception, the Moving Forward Network (MFN) has worked to advance environmental justice as a priority within the EPA and other agencies. Thanks to the hard work of the network and its members to bring together community organizing, media, and science, we have seen some great advances by the EPA, including a stated intent in the EJ 2020 plan and elsewhere to reduce goods movement air pollution and improve public health in overburdened communities.
Among the initiatives in which our members are involved is a project by the EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ) to develop a series of guides intended to help port communities build capacity and for ports and port communities to engage and reduce air pollution – the Ports Primer, Community Action Roadmap, and Environmental Justice Primer.
The guides are now in draft, and the EPA has selected three organizations or partnerships with which to test and refine the guides, enhance community skills, develop action plans, and address community needs. Among those selected is an MFN member, Harambee House, Inc. of Savannah, Georgia.
The MFN and its members have been effective in moving the agency when we organize, and are willing to collaborate and work with the EPA when it furthers our agenda of protecting overburdened communities.
To review the draft guides and learn more about these projects, see the following, received last week from the EPA:Read More›
Share Leticia DeCaigny’s conversation with Richard Mabion and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.
Richard Mabion is president of the Kansas City, Kansas branch of the NAACP and a board member of the Kansas Sierra Club. He created Building A Sustainable Earth Community to draw more people of color to the environmental sustainability movement.
Leticia DeCaigny, leader of the Argentine/Turner Good Neighbor Committee and Diesel Health Project community organizer, spoke with Richard Mabion about how he began advocating for his community around environmental issues and his hopes for the future. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.
LETICIA DECAIGNY: What in your life experience prepared you to be a changemaker?
RICHARD MABION: You’re getting all my little trade secrets, aren’t you? (Laughs) My mother was the last president for the PTA for the “Negro school system” in the state of Kansas. When they had the Brown vs. Topeka court settlement my mother was president … So when you grow up in that kind of environment, you have an emphasis on education in your face every day, and you have an emphasis for change, and you grow up with one of those “can do” attitudes. And so actually it’s like being a Christian. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. We went to church on Sunday and we were raised to be changemakers.
LD: So how does the pollution in our community impact you and others.
RM: The portion of the population that we represent is the low-income community. And the problem with pollution in the low-income community is lack of education. No one has really taken the time to stop and education the public about what it is that they’re even dealing with. And that’s what makes what you and I do very special. Because … we’re in a position to make sure the everyday person can learn environmental literacy, can learn about pollution. And it doesn’t have to end up like it was in Flint, where the people were totally out of the loop when it came to their own water.
LD: What is your greatest hope for positive change in your lifetime and how can we all be a part of that change?
RM: Harmony. Being able to live as an American public. I think that that’s another thing the environmental movement can produce … That’s what David Korten was talking about with the Great Turning. That if we all start working for the benefit of this planet then we’ll all be working for the benefit for each other. And that’s the ultimate that I’d like to see this planet become.
I don’t know how many more years of life I have. I’d like to think 100. But realistically what I’m doing is to assist and pass some wisdom on to your age group, so that you’ll be able to use it as stepping stones to take us where we need to go as a human race.
PLEASE JOIN Leticia and Richard in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation using the social media buttons above to show your support for #ZeroEmissionsNow.
LEARN MORE about the work they are doing to improve the quality of life in Kansas City, Kansas by following the Diesel Health Project.
LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.
Share Carolina Martinez’ conversation with Yesenia Ceballos and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.
Yesenia Ceballos had long been concerned about her children’s safety negotiating the traffic and toxic paint vapors coming from the auto body and repair shops in her neighborhood near the port in Old Town National City, California. She was intrigued when she met up with friends who were celebrating a hard-won victory to have street lights and crossing signs to protect children from the traffic. She asked them why their t-shirts all said “EHC,” and that began her involvement with the Environmental Health Coalition.
Carolina Martinez, Policy Advocate with Environmental Health Coalition in National City California, spoke with Yesenia Ceballos, environmental justice promoter in Old Town National City about what motivates her to improve quality of life in her neighborhood. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.
YESENIA CEBALLOS: Tenemos los talleres de mecánica, talleres de carrocería y pintura, talleres de soldadura, tenemos muchos contaminantes, tenemos el freeway 5 que está muy cerca de aquí de nuestras escuelas, de nuestras casas. Entonces tenemos revuelto lo que son casas y negocios, entonces eso es una bomba constante para nuestros niños … Por ejemplo, yo vivo a dos calles, a dos casas de ahí de ahí de uno de estos talleres, en donde pintan barcos. Entonces, todo ese olor de pintura sale, diariamente están pintando carr—barcos, igual carros también hay muchos talleres cerca. Entonces, a tres casas más está la escuela, entonces todo esto lo están respirando nuestros niños cuando salen a hacer su deporte, ellos están respirando todo esto. Entonces, si juntamos lo del freeway, lo del puerto, porque también tenemos un puerto cerca. Entonces, si juntamos todos esos contaminantes, es algo que está dañando nuestros niños, sus pulmones, que puede causarles asma, son muchos factores que tienen ellos.
YESENIA CEBALLOS: There are mechanical workshops, paint and body shops, welding shops, and there are many contaminants, and on top of that Freeway 5, which is very close to our schools and our houses. Therefore, we lived on top of each other, houses and businesses scrambled together, which was a ticking bomb for our children … For example, I live two blocks away, two houses from one of these repair shops, where they paint ships. Every day, all that paint odor comes out, because of all the paint they use for ships, and there are also many paint shops for cars nearby. Three blocks after, there is the school. So all our children are breathing this when they go out and play sports, they are breathing all of this. Then, if we combine the pollution from the freeway and the port–because we also have a port nearby–, well, if we combine all these, it is really harming our children. Damaging their lungs, which can cause asthma, there are many factors involved.
Es una lucha constante hacer que estas industrias y negocios tengan en cuenta nuestro bienestar. El puerto tiene un gran impacto en la salud de nosotros, y debe tomar responsabilidad con sus vecinos. Pero esto no pasa si nosotros no estamos ahí, luchando, participando para que este cambio se pueda hacer. Nosotros también tenemos derecho a vivir en una comunidad saludable.
It is a constant struggle to make these industries and businesses aware of our wellbeing. The port has a major impact on our health, and we should take responsibility for our community. However, this will not happen if we are not there, fighting and participating to make this change happen. Because we also have the right to live in a healthy community.
PLEASE JOIN Carolina and Yesenia in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation using the social media buttons above to show your support for #ZeroEmissionsNow.
LEARN MORE about the work they are doing to improve the quality of life in San Diego County by following Environmental Health Coalition.
LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.
Share Onyx and Humberto’s conversation and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.
Onyx Bazulto lives in the Imperial Valley in Southern California, where air quality is poor and one in five children has asthma. Her community of Brawley is located between the Salton Sea and the border crossing at Calexico-Mexicali, along a heavily traveled freight corridor.
Humberto Hugo, policy advocate with Comite Civico Del Valle, spoke with Onyx about what motivates her to do community health and education work. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.
ONYX BAZULTO: I decided to take that step to change my community because I, for one, care for my family and their health. Both my daughter and I and my mom have asthma and ever since we moved to the Imperial Valley we’ve had many issues of allergies — having to go to the hospital plenty of times because of symptoms of asthma.
The first step I took to do something in our community was research and speaking out to family, friends and neighbors who were dealing with the same issues.
We live in a dust bowl, below sea level. Every other coastal area — all their pollution surrounds us and sinks in, as well as the incoming diesel contamination from the international exchange of goods.
Where I live, not even 10 feet away … trucks have found our nearby gas station to be a truck stop. Every day, every night, you’ll see a long row of semis idling their vehicles for long periods of time. And you know I live right next to the gas station. So I can see a lot of dust enter my home. And then you can smell the smog. So I never have my windows open. And it causes a lot of coughing for my daughter. I always have to be careful. She can’t even play outside.
I frequently have to dust, sweep, mop my home to lift the dust and dirt. I have to change AC air filters more than two times a month. It’s a rare joy to open my door and windows. When I do, a lot of dust comes in.
I would really love to have our community become more aware of their surrounding environmental justice issues and have them advocate to defend themselves.
PLEASE JOIN Onyx Bazulto and Humberto Hugo in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation and show your support.
LISTEN to other conversations in our StoryCorps project, with people who are fighting for #ZeroEmissionsNow in their communities across the United States.
Share mark!’s conversation with his grandparents and support the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign.
mark! Lopez was born into a family of organizers and is driven by an early memory of a community march when he was just a toddler in a stroller. He majored in Environmental Studies and earned a masters degree in Chicano studies and returned to the community where he grew up, to work for Communities for A Better Environment and then East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, where he is now the executive director.
mark! was interviewed by his grandparents, Juana and Ricardo Gutierrez. Here are excerpts from their conversation, which you can hear on StoryCorps.me.
JUANA GUTIERREZ: Cual fue el primer paso que tomaste para convertirte en un agente de cambio en nuestra comunidad y que te motivo para dar ese paso?
JUANA GUTIERREZ: What was the first step you took to become a change agent in your community and what motivated you to take that step?
MARK! LOPEZ: Pues no fue un paso creo que uno de los recuerdos que tengo ni de un ano o dos anos creo fue una marcha. Anduvimos en una marcha en 6th street u otro bridge pero estábamos cruzando y yo andaba en un stroller. Y recuerdo la danza Azteca, el tambor y pues ahí con toda la familia y la comunidad marchando. Y me imagino que fue por el prison, pero ese es uno de mis primer recuerdos de mi vida. Ese recuerdo me motivo y es como un guía para ensenarme que es funcionar en comunidad y creci haciendo este trabajo de la comunidad entonces siempre pense que este era algo normal que tenia que hacer.
MARK! LOPEZ: It was not a step. One of my first memories when I was one or two years old was when we were in a march. This march on 6th street, or another bridge, but we were crossing it and I was in my stroller. I remember the danza Azteca, the drums and being there with family and the community marching. This memory is my motivation and my guide as to how to be part of a community. Since I grew up doing this community work, I thought this was the norm and something I had to do.
RICARDO GUTIERREZ: Puedes compartir un tema importante que estás trabajando y tu visión para un futuro mejor?
RICHARD GUTIERREZ: Can you share one important thing you are working on right now and what your visión for a better future looks like?
MARK! LOPEZ: Pues creo que algo que hemos aprendido mucho en el movimiento el que nosotros tenemos que ser los que luchan, nadien va a venir a nuestro rescate. Entonces por ese nosotros tenemos que tener una visión para lo que queremos. Porque si solo les decimos que no queremos solo van a traer mas ideas que nos afectan y no va ha ser algo de beneficio para la comunidad. Entonces en todo el trabajo que hacemos tenemos que empezar con entender el problema, como nos impacta y averiguar que es lo que podemos hacer, que hay de opciones, que es lo que están haciendo otras comunidades y si no hay ejemplos ver lo que podemos crear o pensar. Entonces eso creo que estamos haciendo con el freeway 710, con la alternativa comunitaria 7, es lo que estamos haciendo al nivel nacional.
En anos pasados quien creía que podíamos tener trocas sin contaminación y ahorita estamos en esa lucha que empieza con nosotros. Las comunidades cerca de los puertos ya tienen muchos anos con mucha contaminación entonces esas platicas, ese movimiento que los puertos para asegurar que los puertos no tengan contaminación en el futuro empieza con nosotros. Como ustedes empezaron a luchar aquí en Boyle Heights y en el este de Los Angeles y yo la siguiente generación de la familia y ahora la generación tercera viendo a Xole y a Luna que vienen después de mi y los demás creo que nos aseguramos que la comunidad va estar en buenas manos.
MARK! LOPEZ: I think one thing we have learned from the movement is that we have to be the ones that fight for ourselves, no one is coming to our rescue. This is why we need to have a vision of what we want. Because if we only tell them what we don’t want they will only bring more projects/ideas that will negatively impact us instead of being a benefit to the community. So in the all the work that we do we must first understand the problem, how it will impact us, and figure out what we can do about it. What are the options, what are other communities doing to fight back and if there are no examples we need to figure it out ourselves. This is what I think we have done with the 710 freeway, with Community Alternative 7. This is also what we are doing at the national level.
Before no one could image we could have trucks without pollution and right now we are in that struggle, but it starts with us. Communities living close to ports have a long history with pollution and its impacts so those conversation around making sure the Ports no longer pollute starts with us. Just like you started the fight here in Boyle Heights and East LA, I am the next generation in my family and now the third generation seeing my daughters Xole and Luna that come after me we are making sure that our community is in good hands.
PLEASE JOIN mark! Lopez and his family in the #ZeroEmissionsNow campaign to reduce diesel emissions in our communities. Share their conversation and show your support.
LEARN MORE about the work they are doing to improve the quality of life in East L.A. by following East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.