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Whew, 2014 went by quickly and we were busy!

GCM’s 2014 PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS

GCM produced a landmark year, bringing long-term projects (2+ years) to a close in 2014.  Working in partnership with Coming Clean Collaborative and community partners to simultaneously release Warning Signs, a national report, and journal article on gas operations/fracking in late October. The report and article featured GCM’s monitoring work around gas operations in six states and provided a snapshot of the impacts of the industry throughout the country.

Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) issued a statewide Air Quality Report, Breathe In New Mexico, featuring
Bucket Brigades in Albuquerque, Mesquite and the Navajo Reservation in November.

CommunityRecycleIn partnership with Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment and the Committee for A Better Arvin, we gathered a trail of evidence exposing the local compost facility’s poisoning of the local community. The publication, Rotten Neighbor: The Story of Community Recycling and Resource Recovery and the South Kern Communities Held Hostage by Neglect was released on the 3rd anniversary of two young workers’ deaths in October.

GCM also closed out the East Bay Body Burden Study in August.

GCM worked with partners to analyze monitoring data and release reports on the movement of goods including:

  • Argentine/Turner, Kansas: Focusing on a nearby rail yard, GCM and partners released a report that showed unhealthy levels of diesel exhaust, levels high enough on some days to send the elderly to the hospital or to raise the death rate among residents. The project was featured in a front-page story in the Kansas City Star.
  • Seward, Alaska: In July, the Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance, Community Action Against Toxins and Global Community Monitor released the results of our collaborative air quality testing study. The report samples revealed that air around the Seward Coal Loading Facility expose neighbors to crystalline silica.
  • Houston, Texas: After closing out a year of sampling, we issued a report suggesting that every day the 10,000 residents of Galena Park are being exposed to unhealthy levels of particulate matter pollution from 5,000 diesel trucks entering and exiting Houston’s port.
  • Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana: Working with local residents, the Gulf Restoration Network and the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition, GCM launched a coal export monitoring project in 2014.

GCM’s Long Term/In Depth Partnerships

Central Valley:

  • GCM has begun developing a model for improving the acceptance of community-based air monitoring and data into air district policy and decision making and enforcement of existing rules.
  • GCM’s Central Valley Organizer responded to complaints about gas odors in residents’ homes in Arvin, CA. Sample results revealed over twenty toxic chemicals, including cancer-causing benzene. The County evacuated eight homes. It was determined that fracking waste gas was beneath the homes. After months of advocating, Governor Jerry Brown intervened on behalf of the State. Flare in Shafter
  • We are completing a pilot one-year ozone monitoring program in Central Valley.  GCM obtained funding to purchase various new air sensors and field test an ultrafine particulate monitor

Bay Area:

  • Chevron’s real time Air Monitoring system in Richmond, CA went online with GCM serving as the City of Richmond’s expert advising the staff and ensuring accountability. This system is the best state-of-the-art refinery air-monitoring project in the nation and establishes a national model.
  • GCM has been participating in SF Bay Area Air Board meetings to advocate for the strongest Refinery Crude Slate and Tracking Rule in the nation. aimeecbrcrop
  • GCM provided guidance, planning and fundraising assistance to a newly formed Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition in the San Francisco Bay Area to help address crude by rail projects and refinery expansions.

2014 New Projects:

GCM launched two new air-monitoring collaborations with Jamaica Environment Trust in Clarendon & St. Anne
Parish, Jamaica and the Neighbors for Clean Air in Portland, OR.

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GCM organized a national gathering, the Community-Based Science for Action Conference, in November in New Orleans. This three-day event was co-hosted by local partners, Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Public Lab.

The event included a toxic tour of coal trains and a coal terminal in Gretna and Ironton, LA. Over 50 people, primarily industrial occupation doctors and nurses associated with the American Public Health Association Conference, attended the tour.  The following two days brought together approximately 150 attendees participating in 20 sessions featuring presenters from leading organizations and academic institutions.  Feedback from presenters and attendees has been extremely positive and supportive.  GCM was able to offer 35 scholarships to community members and presenters.
In addition, we participated in the Rally Against Fracking in Sacramento and all four of the Healing Walks in the Bay Area, organized by Idle No More.

Students at Don't Frack CA Rally

We also participated in numerous conferences and finally got a GCM Advisory Board organized to work on:

  • Expanding GCM’s monitoring tool kit
  • Build a place to provide resources for communities (online forums, website)
  • Leverage & legitimize current methods
  • Data presentation
  • Alternatives to fossil fuels

So Happy New Year!  And let’s see what we can accomplish in 2015.

Leak 452On March 27, 2014, Global Community Monitor, The Center for Race Poverty and the Environment, the Central California Environmental Justice Network, and The Committee for a Better Arvin submitted the following letter to the Kern County Environmental Health Department and the Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources in response to a pipeline leak that was discovered on March 18, 2014.

This leaking pipeline was under a residential block of Arvin.  It’s unclear how long the pipeline had been leaking, but some residents have claimed to have been smelling gas, in their homes, for at least four years.  Residents have questions and we have yet to hear back from either agency. 

March 27, 2014

 Dear Mr. Constantine and Mr. Nechdom,

 Eight families on Nelson Court in Arvin, California (Kern County) were evacuated on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Residents were unclear and uninformed of the level of danger that the Petro Capital Resource’s leaking gas pipeline was causing.

 The Arvin Bucket Brigade, a joint project with Global Community Monitor, Committee for A Better Arvin and Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, were contacted by Nelson Court residents. The air monitoring team took an air sample at 6:50 pm on Tuesday, March 18, 2014.

 The air sample contained over twenty chemicals including elevated levels of cancer causing benzene and a mix of total volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The level of total VOCs in the sample collected at 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday, March 18th at 1312 Nelson Court in Arvin is 13 times higher than the levels the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) scientists have associated with adverse health impacts.

 Residents have noticed chemicals odors for several months and have had varying health effects including nose bleeds, coughs and headaches. A pregnant mother passed out. These health effects show a strong correlation with VOC exposure.

 Nelson Court and Arvin residents have many questions about this gas leak and the emergency evacuation:

 1)      How do you determine it is safe to return to my home? Will there be chemicals in my home?

2)      How will Petro Capital Resource’s be held accountable for this leak?

3)      How did the County determine that an emergency evacuation was needed at 7 pm March 18, 2014?

 4)      How many more pipelines like this exist in the area?

5)      How will you keep these pipelines from leaking?

Our team will be following up with your office to discuss the air monitoring results, attached to this letter.

For clean air and healthy communities,

 

Jessica Hendricks, Global Community Monitor

Juan Flores, The Center for Race, Poverty & the Environment

Sal Partida, The Committee for a Better Arvin

Cesar Campos, Central California Environmental Justice Network

300770_2598161672603_309586047_nBorn and raised in California and coming from a family of activists, I was raised around community and union organizing with my father and grandpa in the United Farm Workers Union in Central and Southern California.  As a child I soon embraced and lived by the social equality emphasis my parents evoked on me as farm workers.  As a teen still in Middle and High School, I organized and was in charge of walking precincts in political campaigns in the Los Angeles area as well as in the Coachella and Central Valley.

I have devoted hundreds of hours in volunteer work organizing communities with farm workers’ rights and environmental justice with Organizations such as The United Farm Workers Union, Committee for A Better Arvin and Center on Poverty, Race and the Environment. While in High School, I also was responsible for organized walk-outs in support of the Dream Act and Dreamers.

Furthermore, my passion for social and environmental equality for everyone has lead me to this new Bucket Brigade Organizer position with Global Community Monitor in Kern County  and I am excited to defend the human right to breath clean air and work towards bringing justice to the community in collaboration with various other local, grassroots organizations.

If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember we officially launched the Arvin Bucket Brigade in December of 2011.  Looking back on this project in California’s Central Valley, I honestly don’t think I had a clue as to what I was signing up for.

In October 2011, two young workers lost their lives after being overcome with hydrogen sulfide at the Community Recycling facility in Lamont, CA. This was the last straw for the community, already overburdened by air pollution, and the residents took matters (and air monitoring equipment) into their own hands.  The Committee for a Better Arvin (CBA) partnered with the Rose Foundation, the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE) and Global Community Monitor (GCM) to get to work documenting air pollution incidents at the Community Recycling (CRRR) facility and advancing policy change in Kern County. 

In less than two years, we have trained 44 residents in three different kinds of air monitoring, collected over 369 pollution logs, 16 VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) and Sulfur samples, 17 diesel samples and 13 Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) samples.

The results continue to confirm community knowledge that the pollution in the area poses a threat to public health.

  • Bucket samples detected up to 24 different chemicals, including hydrogen sulfide.

  • Four of those are above at least one health based standard.

  • The average levels of the PM samples taken at the first sampling location exceeded the WHO’s (World Health Organization) 24 hour standard.

  • Two of the PM 2.5 samples exceeded the EPA & WHO’s 24 hour standard.

  • Five of diesel samples contain levels that pose an excess risk of cardiovascular & respiratory hospitalizations on the day of exposure.

With this data, 16 community members have spoken at six public meetings and issued three press releases  which led to 10 news stories.

Needless to say, we’ve started something here! 

We have captured the attention of the polluter, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD), the Kern County Board of Supervisors, the California Air Resources Board and EPA Region 9.  We have challenged the SJVAPCD to do side by side testing and have worked with County Supervisors to get CRRR’s operating permit revoked.

Yet, the SJVAPCD still has yet to step up to the plate.  They have discredited our results, dismissed community concerns and kicked us off of meeting agendas.  They refuse to come out to the community during resident identified pollution incidents and have refused to meet with concerned residents.  Is there no corporate regulation here?  Is anyone looking out for the best interests of the community and its residents?  Or are the company and the SJVAPCD just looking at the profits?

Saturday, October 12, 2013 marked the two year anniversary of the two young workers’ deaths from hydrogen sulfide exposure and we are still detecting dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide along the fenceline of CRRR.  CRRR has continued to appeal nearly every punitive measure levied against them for their numerous violations and the community is still waiting for a judge’s decision, which could close down the CRRR facility.

So, while we’re waiting, the residents continue to document pollution incidents, collect data use the truth in the fight for clean air and a health community.

Image from The Wizard of Oz

So, what’s new in Arvin, California?

The Arvin community has taken matters into their own hands-conducting their own air monitoring.  We are yet to see any real action from the Air District.

One year into the Bucket Brigade project, The Committee for a Better Arvin has taken 11 air samples for VOC’s and sulfurs.  They have been collecting data on ozone pollution daily and are planning to get a particulate monitor up and running by the end of the year.

Turns out, the air monitoring results prove that the air in Arvin can cause negative health effects both over short and long term exposure.  We’ve even detected elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide, the same gas that was responsible for the two workers deaths last fall.

Residents have called attention to the results through community meetings as well as submitted these air results to to local news media outlets and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

So, what has the Air District done about it?
Not much!

They called, gave their PR spiel and sent along the odor complaint line.  Turns out the Air District claims it isn’t their responsibility to monitor the air quality in Arvin?!

So, who’s responsibility is it?

The residents of Arvin need comprehensive air monitoring done near Community Recycling & Resource Recovery.  We’ve uncovered elevated levels of toxic gases and people are getting sick, yet the Air District is telling folks that everything is fine.  Although they claim it’s not their responsibility to monitor the air, they have taken a handful of air samples near the facility, but a handful is not enough.  Residents of Arvin need air monitoring done at night and in the early morning hours when they’ve documented the worst pollution incidents.

Sure, the Air District attends just enough community meetings to look like they are interested and create enough hoops to jump through to make community residents feel like it’s their fault that they cannot get the public information documents that they are looking for.  But- just what is it that they do to protect the health and safety of Arvin residents?

The problem here is that the air district is not functioning in an efficient way to protect Arvin residents from toxic air pollution.  Whether it’s confusion over jurisdiction or the inability to collect air samples at times when the community knows high pollution levels are present.  Either way, the inefficiency of the air district to adequately monitor the air in Arvin is once again favoring industry.  So residents will continue to take on the responsibility of monitoring their own air in their fight for clean air and a safe environment.

PS: For those wondering, the Air District claims that air monitoring near Community Recycling is the Health Department’s responsibility.

Do you ever wonder what’s in the air you’re breathing?  Could it be harmful?  Maybe, you live next to an oil refinery. Are those odors and burning eyes associated with a chemical presence in the air?  There’s governmental agencies that monitor that, right?  The EPA?  Or maybe that local air district?

These are questions we hear all the time from the fenceline communities that we work with.  How does a neighbor of an oil refinery go about finding out what’s in the air that she’s breathing?

Well, here’s my story-

I wanted to find the emissions inventory (what the company’s emitting in the air) for several facilities in Arvin, California.  Conveniently, there’s a national website, Toxic Release Inventory, where you can put your zip code in and the website searches the database for the registered toxic emissions in your area.  Sounds easy, right? But nothing comes up.  According to this, there’s nothing harmful being emitted by industry in Arvin.  Well, that just doesn’t seem right, I just read that Arvin has the worst air in the Nation.

Read the rest of this entry »

As we discussed in our previous post, residents of Arvin, CA want the truth about what is in the air they are breathing. They know they have the worst air quality in the nation, due to ozone pollution, but could the multiple industries be exacerbating the problem with harmful emissions?

To help them determine what is in the air, they invited GCM to provide them with a Bucket Brigade training in February.

The training kicked off at 10am Sunday: GCM brought the Buckets, and the CBA folks brought the coffee, pan dulces and the sheer passion and determination it takes for grassroots change.  And, much appreciation to CRPE for taking on the BIG task of translation between English and Spanish.

The residents of Arvin were organized and ready with a ton of great questions.  GCM led them through the basics of air pollution, mapped out pollution sources in relation to the community and went over the need to record and keep track of pollution incidents with the Pollution Log.

We quickly learned that Arvin is growing!  There are plans for more houses, jobs and industrial expansions.  All great news considering the lagging economy, but this is a pivotal point for the residents who are concerned about the growing air pollution problem that could go hand-in-hand.

Residents want a straight and honest answer about the potential health risks of living so close to industry.  Community members are concerned about the bad odors near some of the industrial facilities.  They complained of rotten eggs, feces and spoiled fruit; often accompanied by acute health effects.

Sal Partida, President of The Committee for a Better Arvin, shared that “when it rains, you can’t tell what color your car was, because all of the pollution lands on it.”

And what better thing to follow-up that conversation than lunch!  We’re met with some surprised faces and laughter, but it usually doesn’t take too long for everyone to re-gain their appetite.   

Lunch, provided by the community residents, was spectacular.  I put my Cliff Bar away and grabbed a plate of fresh seafood salad, with pulled chicken that had been slow cooked with onions and spices.  And  to top it off hibiscus flavored agua fresca!

Then, onward with the training: it’s time to build the Buckets!  Two teams, four Buckets and two GCM trainers geared up for a little competition.  Which team could build it first?

Obviously, the younger team far surpassed their elders!  We had one Bucket up and running in no more than 15 minutes.

Full Disclosure- this team had seen the Buckets in action before at our Intro meeting, and did have some trouble with the vacuum on the second Bucket.  Additionally, there was no need for translation and so we got quite the head start with instructions.

After the other team caught up, we moved into the essential paperwork for sample data and planned out the pollution monitoring plan.  Everything was falling into place.  The farmer has the early morning pollution patrol and the High School girls have the mid-afternoon patrols.  The community residents decided which four activists would be in charge of the Buckets and circulated contact info so everyone can get in touch with them quickly following a pollution incident.  The Arvin Bucket Brigade is ready to go!  Stay tuned for sample results…..

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