by Stephanie Lee from "San Francisco Chronicle"
Nine of California's communities most heavily burdened by pollution are in the Bay Area, according to a statewide map released Tuesday and designed to point to areas in need of cleanup.
About half of the top 10 percent of the state's most polluted communities exist in the greater Los Angeles area and San Joaquin Valley, but parts of Oakland and Richmond also made the list, as did San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood, Pittsburg, Hayward and Antioch.
The map, called CalEnviroScreen, used thousands of pieces of data to identify communities that bear a disproportionate share of various toxicants, from dirty air to hazardous waste facilities. The designations make the areas candidates to receive grant and investment assistance from the state to clean them up.
"It is important for me to know, for the environment I live in, what it's like," said Amy Vanderwarker, an Oakland resident and coordinator for the California Environmental Justice Alliance, a statewide coalition of community groups. "I love Oakland and am invested in Oakland and want to see projects and development and resources come into Oakland. It needs support as a city."
The agencies analyzed public data in all of California's 1,769 ZIP codes for about 11 kinds of pollution or their sources. They took into account smog levels, traffic density, toxic emissions from factories and businesses, hazardous pesticides and the number of toxic cleanup sites.
The analysis also included population traits that tend to make people more vulnerable to environmental harm. Those included high numbers of children and elderly people, asthma rates, low birth weights, certain races and ethnicities that have been shown to be more susceptible to pollutants, and poverty levels.
The immediate benefit will come from grants and investments from the state's cap-and-trade fund. Under the law that created the map, 25 percent of the money from the auctioning of California's greenhouse-gas emission permits, which began late last year, is designated to go to the state's most polluted pockets.
Although the Bay Area fares well compared to other areas of the state, it is home to the industrial, traffic-heavy sites of east and west Oakland and Richmond, which are among the state's top 5 percent most polluted areas.
Breaking it down -
ZIP code 94621 in East Oakland, for example, includes Oakland International Airport and a busy stretch of Interstate 880, which generate heavy air pollution. The area has high rates of asthma and poverty and other issues linked to environmental hazards.
There are also several toxic sites that were or are designated by other state agencies for cleanup, such as body shops, factories and housing projects; and sites at risk of groundwater contamination from leaking underground storage sites, such as an Arco gas station on Hegenberger Road, according to data from the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control and the State Water Resources Control Board.
Meanwhile, the slice of Richmond that falls into ZIP code 94801 contains the Chevron refinery, in addition to a lot of traffic, air pollution, groundwater contamination threats, and solid and hazardous waste sites.
"The tool is really highlighting some of the air quality impacts that are very severe, particularly for the Bay Area," Vanderwarker said.
Effect on development -
While environmental health advocates praised the map for shining a light on struggling areas, businesses and some lawmakers expressed concern that the map could actually keep economic development out of those areas.
"They will receive aid from the state, which is good, but they may lose jobs," said Mira Guertin, a policy advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce. "They may have a more difficult job trying to get a business to locate there when the business says, 'I don't have any risk, or less risk, if I locate in a ZIP code right next door because the tool doesn't identify that ZIP code as having a high risk.' "
The state Environmental Protection Agency attempted to address this concern by saying that CalEnviroScreen's information cannot be used in place of the state's required environmental review process for proposed construction. Still, Guertin said, the language was not strong enough.
Future versions of the map are expected to include information about drinking-water quality and more specific neighborhoods, the Environmental Protection Agency said.
Is your ZIP code polluted?
Look it up at [bit.ly/YHGHIO].
Read the full report at [http://oehha.ca.gov/ej/ces042313.html]:
Availability of the California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool Report, Version 1 (CalEnviroScreen 1.0), Online Mapping Application, and Accompanying Documents
The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announce the availability of the California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool, Version 1 (CalEnviroScreen 1.0). This tool presents the nation’s first comprehensive screening methodology to identify California communities that are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution and presents the statewide results of the analysis using the screening tool. A report describing the methodology and results along with an online mapping application are available.
OEHHA and Cal/EPA released two public review drafts of the California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool on July 30, 2012, and January 3, 2013. Public comments on the draft reports were received at a series of regional and stakeholder-specific workshops held throughout the state, an Academic Expert Panel workshop, at two meetings of the Cumulative Impacts and Precautionary Approaches Work Group, and in written comments from the public. A summary of major comments and responses received during this period are below.
Input received on the previous two drafts of this report was valuable and is reflected in changes to version 1.0 of CalEnviroScreen. OEHHA has also provided a supporting analysis, or sensitivity analysis, of the January 2013 CalEnviroScreen data and results, which has informed version 1.0 of CalEnviroScreen. A summary of the major changes from the January 2013 draft and a supporting analysis of the January 2013 data are provided below.
California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool, Version 1 Report (CalEnviroScreen 1.0)
English language version [http://oehha.ca.gov/ej/pdf/042313CalEnviroScreen1.pdf]