Jesse Marquez, executive director of Coalition for a Safe Environment, installs an pollution-monitoring device on a Wilmington home just outside the walls of the Phillips 66 oil refinery. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times / February 25, 2014)
A new project being launched on Wednesday will bring concerns about air pollution near Southern California oil refineries very close to home.
The environmental group Coalition For a Safe Environment earlier this week installed a air-quality monitor on the roof of a family’s home just across the fence from the Phillips 66 refinery in Wilmington.
The shoebox-sized, solar-powered device will gather real-time data on the levels of air pollution residents of this working-class neighborhood near the Port of Los Angeles are breathing in, measuring concentrations of nitrogen oxides, fine particles and other pollutants as well as noise, temperature and humidity. The data will be posted online.
“I know the air is polluted,” said Sarah Meafua, 39, who lives in a blue stucco home next to the refinery and has coped with skunky odors, noise and plumes of vapor and smoke. “I’d just like to see the results.”
A related, 18-month study by cancer researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health will assess the the neighborhood’s levels of benzene, a carcinogenic compound released into the air by oil refineries.
The initiative, funded by state and federal grant money, is being unveiled on Wednesday, when the Coalition For a Safe Environment is scheduled to host an open house and tour for government officials and other visitors.
The Wilmington project is the fifth community-based pollution complaint reporting system launched in California in recent years and follows similar projects in the Coachella and Imperial valleys and in Fresno and Kern counties.
Wilmington will be the first among them to incorporate a home air pollution monitor — the first of several that the project’s planners hope to install around the area to track pollution levels in neighborhoods adjacent to rail yards, port operations, refineries and other major polluters.