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    Dirty Little Secrets: New Jersey’s Poorest Live Surrounded by Contamination

    WNYC News
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    WNYC News

    Dirty Little Secrets: New Jersey’s Poorest Live Surrounded by Contamination

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    A now abandoned high school football field was built on a former plastics factory. The site sat contaminated for 28 years before the company, Celanese, agreed to clean up the toxics in Oct. 2015.
    Sarah Gonzalez / WNYC)


    Dec 9, 2015 · by Sarah Gonzalez and The WNYC Data News TeamAgent Orange, the chemical used to clear the jungle during the Vietnam War, was made in New Jersey. It’s now at the bottom of the Passaic River and buried under Newark, entombed in cement.

    For 150 years, New Jersey manufactured chemicals and products that became familiar fixtures in homes: charcoal and lighter fluid, plastic, guns and silk. It’s the job of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that New Jersey’s industrial past isn’t affecting the health of residents today.

    But an investigation by WNYC finds most of the state’s poorest residents are living near a contaminated site with no plan in place to clean it up. And it’s not entirely clear whether anybody even knows with certainty what the risks are.
    WNYC’s Findings

    According to an analysis by WNYC’s Data News Team, 89 percent of New Jerseyans live within a mile of a contaminated site. Most of those sites are in the process of being cleaned up, which can take years.

    But our investigation found 1,464 of the state’s 14,066 known contaminated sites don’t have any clean-up plan in place. Many sites have sat orphaned and polluted for years, and they are disproportionately found in low-income communities.

    • 74 percent of residents who live below the poverty line in New Jersey are living within a mile of a contaminated site with no plan in place to clean up the contamination, compared to half of residents who are not below the poverty line.

    • 79 percent of the state’s Hispanic population and 75 percent of the state’s black population lives within a mile of a site with no clean-up plan, compared to 42 percent of white residents.

    Months ago, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the DEP, told WNYC that the sites with no clean-up plan were mostly abandoned properties like old gas stations and former dry cleaners where the state couldn’t find the owners.
    But WNYC went through the list and knocked on doors, and we found open, functioning businesses and institutions — including a state prison, hospitals, police and fire stations, churches, and schools — all of which have no plan in place to clean up contamination.

    “This is exactly what we said was going to happen,” said advocate Ana Baptista. She grew up next door to a steel drum factory in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood and now is an environmental policy professor at The New School. “Years ago people were screaming at the state that there were these loopholes.”

    The state is no longer responsible for overseeing most of New Jersey's contaminated sites.

    State Distances Itself from Responsibility
    In 2006, the state learned that kids in South Jersey were exposed to dangerously high levels of mercury at their daycare center, which had been allowed to open in an old thermometer factory.

    The DEP admitted it couldn't keep track of all the contamination in the state, and in 2009 the state Legislature voted to outsource the work to private contractors in an effort to clean up contaminated sites faster.

    Now, private contractors called Licensed Site Remediation Professionals investigate contaminated sites and determine how they get cleaned up. The DEP is no longer involved in the clean-up unless it becomes aware that a site is posing an immediate health risk.

    Advocates like Baptista say the privatized system, at best, makes for patchwork oversight of public health and safety.
    “Instead of putting more funding and resources into the state to handle these cases and oversee them, they completely shifted it to a privatized system,” Baptista said. “Here we are years later, doesn’t seem much better, and it’s also left behind this issue of accountability.”

    The DEP said sites that still don’t have a clean-up plan are considered low risks, because of the nature of the contamination and its proximity to people and water supplies. And the agency said it's tried to get these sites to hire a clean-up contractor. It's reached out by phone and email 69,000 times since 2009, the agency said.

    But WNYC found city and state officials weren’t even aware they were operating in sites with known contamination.
    “We are not aware of any known contamination,” said Phillip Scott, director of engineering for the City of Newark, where WNYC found two police stations with contamination from old underground oil tanks and no one hired to investigate. “I would assume that DEP would be required to make us aware of this.”

    Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark was supposed to hire a clean-up contractor to investigate and start a clean-up plan by Jan. 6, 2014. Maple Avenue Elementary in Newark was supposed to hire one by May 7, 2012.
    WNYC checked and found neither school had retained an LSRP to deal with their contamination — until Nov. 20 of this year, four days after WNYC asked why they hadn’t.

    Both public schools are run by the state and made the DEP’s list because of soil contamination from old oil tanks.
    Mark Pederson, the DEP assistant commissioner for site remediation, is not concerned, though. He said sites that still
    haven’t hired a contractor are not posing a health risk.

    “I want to assure you that as best as we can, we’re identifying what are the sites, what’s known to be there and is there potential impact,” Pederson said.

    If there is a potential for health risks, Pederson said the agency steps in.

    “If I don’t have a party willing to do the work, and there’s a potential human exposure, we have public funds to do that. And I do not hesitate,” he said.

    But the agency has been wrong before. And it doesn’t always step get involved in time. Some sites that the state identified as low risk have become immediate threats over time.

    “Is there a potential that there’s a site in the state of New Jersey that I don’t know about? Absolutely,” Pederson said. “And could there be an impact that I don’t know about? Absolutely. But I’ve got a process to deal with that when it happens.”
    Lurking Hazards

    That process, for New Jersey resident Modesto Vieira, involved installing air filters.

    Vieira moved to Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood from Portugal in the 1970s and bought we he calls his “dream home.”
    An exhaust pipe under Modesto Vieira’s garage is sucking up toxic fumes from the soil and shooting them into the air. His home was never supposed to be built on a former lighter fluid factory.
    (Sarah Gonzalez/WNYC)

    No one told Vieira his house was built on the site of a former lighter fluid factory. In fact, the Department of Environmental Protection said homes were never supposed to be built there. And in 2013 the agency became aware that residents on Vieira’s entire block had been breathing in toxic, cancer-causing fumes for 12 years.

    There’s now an exhaust pipe that starts under Vieira’s garage and runs along the side of his house. It’s sucking up toxic fumes from the soil and shooting the fumes into the air.

    “It was like a gassy smell, and w,e couldn’t figure out what it was,” Vieira said. “But ever since they dug the holes in here the air has gotten better and I don’t feel the headache as much.”

    It’s a temporary fix. The groundwater under Vieira’s home is still contaminated. And the contamination is spreading. It moved a block over, and now the state it testing the block next to that, Lentz Avenue. That’s where Kathleen Grey-Rodrigues lives.

    She got a letter from the DEP in October stating that there may be toxic fumes in her home.

    “In my home that I’m in every day, breathing,” Grey-Rodrigues said. “When I got that notice it scared me. I wanted to run. And I love this house. This is my neighborhood. But I don’t want to be breathing on a home that’s on toxic land.”

    Cleaning up contaminated sites is expensive. And everyone WNYC spoke with — developers, owners of contaminated sites, the DEP — said sites don’t usually get cleaned up until someone buys the property.

    Grey-Rodrigues says that leaves behind low-income communities where the land isn’t considered valuable.
    “We pay taxes,” says Grey-Rodrigues. “OK, some more than others - yes, I know that. But the government is the big guy. They have to do the right thing. I don’t care how costly it is.”

    Mark Mauriello, who was DEP commissioner before Gov. Chris Christie took office, agrees that low-income communities are left behind.

    “You look at Camden, you look at Newark, you look at Trenton and Paterson. There’s a significant relationship between communities of color and communities of poverty and the level of contamination, and in some cases the time it takes to address those problems in these communities.” Mauriello said. “This is a really big deal."
    This story is part of Dirty Little Secrets, a series investigating New Jersey’s toxic legacy. Participating news partners include New Jersey Public Radio/WNYC, WHYY, NJTV, and NJ Spotlight. The collaboration is facilitated by The Center for Investigative Reporting, with help from the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State.

    What has Gov. Christie done to clean this mess up?

    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" ** Edmund Burke**

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    Christie's Involvement in Lower-Than-Expected Exxon Settlement Questioned

    by Tribune News Service | March 6, 2015

    By James M. O'Neill
    New Jersey announced Thursday that it has settled an environmental damage claim against Exxon Mobil Corp. for $225 million, $25 million less than originally reported last week and far less than the $8.9 billion it had originally sought.

    State officials called the $225 million figure the single largest environmental settlement with a corporate defendant in state history.

    The settlement follows a lawsuit the state filed 11 years ago against Exxon Mobil for damage to the environment and natural resources caused by contamination of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands from the company's refinery operations, as well as from company service stations and other facilities throughout the state.

    The settlement was announced today by Acting State Attorney General John J. Hoffman and Bob Martin, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

    When the New York Times originally reported last week that the settlement was $250 million, it drew withering criticism from many legislators and environmentalists because the state had sought $8.9 billion and the settlement came just before a state Superior Court judge was set to rule on the amount Exxon would be penalized.
    The vast gap between what the state originally sought and what it settled for raised questions about the involvement of the administration of Gov. Chris Christie in the case, since the governor, eyeing a presidential bid, has drawn heavily from the fossil fuel industry for money to boost his national stature.

    Bradley M. Campbell, who launched the Exxon case in 2004 as former head of the New Jersey DEP, said in an opinion piece published Thursday in the New York Times that former colleagues in state government told him that Christie's chief counsel, Christopher Porrino, "inserted himself into the case, elbowed aside the attorney general and career employees who had developed and prosecuted the litigation, and cut the deal favorable to Exxon."

    In his opinion piece, Campbell called the settlement "an embarrassment to law enforcement and good government," and that it is "a disgrace."

    Campbell's accusations brought quick response from state legislators. "If former Commissioner Campbell's information is accurate, Acting Attorney General Hoffman has abdicated his responsibility as the chief law enforcement officer of the state by allowing the Governor's Office to interfere in the litigation, resulting in sweetheart deal for Exxon but a bad deal for New Jersey," said state Sen. Ray Lesniak. "If the Acting Attorney General can't act like an Attorney General, he should resign."

    "The Attorney General is a constitutional office, independent of the Governor's Office and, unlike other cabinet officials, does not serve at the pleasure of the Governor," Lesniak said in a statement. "The framers of the New Jersey's Constitution planned it that way so the chief law enforcement officer of the state would be independent of any political pressure."

    In a statement, Hoffman said that "settling the case rather than continuing to litigate provides a predicable, fair outcome for the people of New Jersey."

    The attorney general's office said the litigation and settlement negotiations, "as with all such cases of this magnitude, were conducted by the State Attorney General's Office working in coordination with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Governor's Office."

    The settlement announced Thursday must undergo a 30-day public comment period and must be approved by a Superior Court judge.

    The settlement still preserves the state's claims against Exxon Mobil for natural resource damages to surface waters affected by the company's operations, according to the attorney general's office. It also preserves the state's natural resource damage claims against Exxon Mobil related to the discharge of MTBE at the company's service stations in New Jersey.

    The settlement is in addition to Exxon Mobil's costs to clean up the contamination from its operations.

    "This important settlement, which came about because this administration aggressively pushed the case to trial, is the result of long fought settlement negotiations that pre-dated and post-dated the trial," said Hoffman. "It ensures the continuation of the ExxonMobil-funded remediation work at these contaminated sites, and it holds the company financially accountable through payment of a historic Natural Resource Damages settlement on top of Exxon's obligation to clean up the sites."

    "As the Trustee for Natural Resources for the State of New Jersey, I take very seriously my responsibility to ensure that the people of New Jersey are compensated when there are damages," Martin said. "This settlement is the largest in the history of the state, and is six times greater than the previous largest: natural resource damage settlement.

    The state settled MTBE-related claims last year with Hess for $35.5 million. The 2004 Athos spill, which resulted in a major oil discharge into the Delaware River, was settled in 2009 for $19 million. The state sought as much as $5 billion in a decade-old suit against a group of Passaic River polluters and settled in recent years for $355 million.

    The state had argued in multiple court documents about “gross and pervasive contamination” by Exxon, and it described “staggering and unprecedented” damage caused by the discharge of more than 600 hazardous chemicals. Among the more vivid details the state cited in the documents were that Exxon poured kerosene on wetlands at the refineries to combat mosquitoes, left millions of cubic yards of hazardous waste sitting on top of wetlands, and used wetlands as “waste receptacles.”

    A consultant hired by the state said Exxon should pay $2.5 billion to restore the wetlands and $6.4 billion to preserve land elsewhere to compensate for the damaged wetlands and the public’s lost use of them.

    Hogan was about to rule on how much Exxon should pay when the Christie administration announced the $225 million settlement earlier this year.

    Haven't found the story yet but he supposedly used those funds for other things as he did with Hurricane Sandy funds.
    Last edited by artist; 12-29-2015 at 04:01 PM.

  3. #3
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    PARADISE (San Diego)
    It's not just New Jersey.

    Poor people everywhere live in the worst neighborhoods.

    Pollution, Poverty, People of Color: The factory on the hill.

    Robert Durell

    By Jane Kay and Cheryl Katz
    Photos by Robert Durell
    Environmental Health News

    June 4, 2012

    Part 1 of Pollution, Poverty, People of Color

    NORTH RICHMOND, Calif.From the house where he was born, Henry Clark can stand in his back yard and see plumes pouring out of one of the biggest oil refineries in the United States. As a child, he was fascinated by the factory on the hill, all lit up at night like the hellish twin of a fairy tale city. In the morning, he'd go out to play and find the leaves on the trees burned to a crisp. "Sometimes I'd find the air so foul, I'd have to grab my nose and run back into the house until it cleared up," he said.

    The refinery would burn off excess gases, sending "energy and heat waves that would rock our house like we were caught in an earthquake," recalled Clark, 68. When the area was engulfed in black smoke for up to a week after one accident, "nobody came to check on the health of North Richmond."

    With all of the frequent explosions and fires that sent children fleeing schools, parks and a swimming pool within a mile of the refinery, "we just hoped that nothing happened that would blow everybody up,'' Clark said. "People still wonder when the next big accident is going to happen.”

    For 100 years, people, mostly blacks, have lived next door to the booming Chevron Richmond Refinery built by Standard Oil, a plant so huge it can process 240,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Hundreds of tanks holding millions of barrels of raw crude dot 2,900 acres of property on a hilly peninsula overlooking the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. Five thousand miles of pipeline there move gasoline, jet fuel, diesel and other chemical products.

    During World War II, African Americans like Clark's family moved to homes in the shadow of this refinery because they had nowhere else to go. Coming to California looking for opportunity, they quickly learned that white neighborhoods and subdivisions didn't want them.

    The people of Richmond live within a ring of five major oil refineries, three chemical companies, eight Superfund sites, dozens of other toxic waste sites, highways, two rail yards, ports and marine terminals where tankers dock. The city of 103,701 doesn't share the demographic of San Francisco, 25 miles to the south, or even Contra Costa County, or the state as a whole.

    In North Richmond–the tiny, unincorporated neighbor of Richmond–Latinos, blacks and Asians make up 97 percent of the 3,717 residents, compared with 82.9 percent in Richmond and 59.9 percent in California, according to 2010 U.S. Census figures.

    The people of Richmond live within a ring of five oil refineries, three chemical plants, eight Superfund sites, dozens of other toxic waste sites, highways, two rail yards, ports and marine terminals.

    Most houses sell for below $100,000, among the lowest prices in the Bay Area, in the zip code shared with the Chevron refinery, and residents complain of a lack of paved streets, lighting and basic services. Short on jobs and long on poverty, there's not a grocery store or cafe in sight. The median income in North Richmond, $36,875 in 2010, is less than Richmond's modest $54,012 and less than half of Contra Costa County’s $78,385.

    Low-income residents seeking affordable homes end up sharing a fence line with a refinery and a cluster of other polluting businesses. They may save money on shelter, but they pay the price in health, researchers say.

    Decades of toxic emissions from industries–as well as lung-penetrating diesel particles spewed by truck routes and rail lines running next door to neighborhoods–may be taking a toll on residents’ health. The people of Richmond, particularly African Americans, are at significantly higher risk of dying from heart disease and strokes and more likely to go to hospitals for asthma than other county residents. Health experts say their environment likely is playing a major role.

    While most coastal cities breathe ocean breezes mixed with traffic exhaust, people in north and central Richmond are exposed to a greater array of contaminants, many of them at higher concentrations. Included are benzene, mercury and other hazardous air pollutants that have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and neurological effects. People can’t escape the fumes indoors, either. One study showed that some of the industrial pollutants are inside Richmond homes.

    It's the triple whammy of race, poverty and environment converging nationwide to create communities near pollution sources where nobody else wants to live. Black leaders from the Civil Rights Movement called the phenomenon environmental racism, and beginning in the early 1980s, they documented the pattern at North Carolina's Warren County PCBs landfill, Louisiana's "Cancer Alley," Tennessee's Dickson County, Chicago's South Side, Houston's Sunnyside garbage dump and other places across the country.

    About 56 percent of the nine million Americans who live in neighborhoods within three kilometers of large commercial hazardous waste facilities are people of color, according to a landmark, 2007 environmental justice report by the United Church of Christ. In California, it’s 81 percent. Poverty rates in these neighborhoods are 1.5 times higher than elsewhere.

    Those numbers, however, reflect a miniscule portion of the threats faced by nonwhite and low-income families. Thousands of additional towns are near other major sources of pollution, including refineries, chemical plants, freeways and ports.

    Richmond is one of these beleaguered towns, on the forefront of the nation's environmental justice struggle, waging a fight that began a century ago.

    Nowhere else to go

    In the San Francisco Bay Area, African Americans didn't move next to an oil refinery by chance.

    Early black settlers came to California as part of a migration between 1890 and the 1920s, many following family and friends to emerging industry in the East Bay. They escaped Jim Crow traditions of the South, but "lived a tenuous existence on the outer edges of the city's industrial vision, trapped at the bottom of the economic and social hierarchy," according to Sacramento State University professor Shirley Ann Wilson Moore in her book, To Place Our Deeds.

    During World War II, blacks again arrived mainly from southern states seeking jobs in shipbuilding plants built under government contract with industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. Henry Clark's father, Jimmy Clark of Little Rock, Ark., came seeking opportunity as the first town barber.

    Richmond turned to segregated housing in the decade after its 1905 incorporation. When Kaiser got the war contract for shipbuilding in 1941, most of Richmond's African American population was concentrated in and around North Richmond.

    Early records describe North Richmond as bordering a garbage dump with few streetlights, scarce fire and police protection and unpaved streets turning to "muddy quagmires in the rain."

    The Richmond Housing Authority, in 1941, was told by the federal government to provide low-cost housing to the shipyard workers who swelled Richmond to a city five times its earlier size. But by 1952, no African American had lived in any of Richmond's permanent low-rent housing. There was nothing in rentals or sales available to blacks in the central city.

    Nonwhites were pushed to unincorporated North Richmond and other neighborhoods dominated by the refinery, chemical companies, highways, rail yards and ports.

    "It was the only land available to them when they wanted to purchase property. People don't put themselves in harm's way intentionally," said Betty Reid Soskin, 93, who moved to the Bay Area with her family when she was eight. She lectures on the African American experience in World War II at the National Historical Park's Rosie the Riveter project in Richmond. “Real estate developers could determine where you lived. The local banker could determine who could get mortgages.”

    "Social policy determines history," Soskin said. "We have developed sensitivities to environmental injustice, and those sensitivities did not exist during that time."

    The pattern of neglect continues today, said the Rev. Kenneth Davis, who used to come to North Richmond from San Francisco in the 1970s to visit friends and blues clubs.

    "It's like we're on an island,” Davis said. “No grocery store to get fresh fruits and vegetables and meat. The only things you can buy are drink and dope. There's nothing but old nasty rotten food on the shelves and plenty of beer, wine and whiskey.”

    Davis, who moved to a senior apartment in North Richmond in 2006, said he can see the refinery from his third-floor window, and blames Chevron and other companies for his chronic cough since moving here. As a pastor, he wonders about the deeper effects of pollution and poverty. "I'm beginning to think there's a correlation between the toxic fumes that we're breathing and the violence that is so prevalent in our community."

    Joining the African Americans are newcomers from Laos, Latin America and the Pacific Islands, again seeking refuge and opportunity here amongst the factories and freeways in North Richmond.

    Tons of trouble

    Sandy Saeteurn grew up in North Richmond, a Mien from Laos who came with her mother, five sisters and two brothers when she was three months old. Her family was part of the new wave of immigrants to the Bay Area, this time fleeing the aftermath of wars in Southeast Asia in the late 1970s and early 1980s. By the time the Asian newcomers arrived, the black social clubs and much of the cultural life had pretty much disappeared as people with means fled the neglected neighborhoods. The pollution remained, though.

    Some children have ocean views, some have pastoral, rolling hills. Here in North Richmond, children have chemical plants that look like magical Las Vegas, only to turn, without notice, into a stinking hellfire.

    "At school, along with earthquake drills, we were practicing chemical explosion drills,” said Saeturn, who attended Peres Elementary School, across a parkway and railroad tracks from the Chevron refinery. It is one of two public schools within a mile of it.

    "The teacher sent us indoors, and gave us paper napkins to put over our mouths and noses, then loaded us into school buses. We were driven around until it was supposedly safe to come back.”
    -Sandy Saeturn, 27

    “I remember once coming out and the playground was enveloped in smoke. The smell was really awful, a strong, sort of gassy smell, and you couldn't see a couple of feet in front of you. We were all coughing," said Saeteurn, now 27 and a community organizer.

    "The teacher sent us indoors, and gave us paper napkins to put over our mouths and noses, then loaded us into school buses.

    We were driven around until it was supposedly safe to come back. When we got back, it was time to go home. Our parents were there waiting for us.”

    One in four Richmond residents lives in areas of high air pollution from nearby industry or busy roadways, according to a city estimate based on data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory and the California Air Resources Board.

    Violations of air-quality rules are more frequent in Richmond than in the rest of the region, according to city calculations.

    Over a 10-year period, there were 13.1 incidents per 100,000 people compared with 0.96 for the entire Bay Area.

    In Contra Costa County, the Bay Area's most industrialized county, businesses released more than 3.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals into air, water and waste sites in 2010, according to the EPA’s inventory, which is based on companies reporting more than 10,000 pounds of chemicals per year.

    More than 80 percent of the county's releases come from its four oil refineries within 20 miles of Richmond–Chevron; Tesoro Refining and Marketing Co. and Shell Oil Products in Martinez, and ConocoPhillips Refinery in Rodeo.

    The Chevron refinery, which is by far Richmond's biggest polluter, released 575,669 pounds of chemicals into air, water and waste facilities in 2010, more than the whole of Alameda County or Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley.

    Included are several carcinogens released into the air and water–3,807 pounds of benzene, 135 pounds of 1,3-butadiene and 606 pounds of nickel. The rest is an array of chemicals such as toluene, hydrocyanide, ammonia, sulfuric acid and ethylbenzene, that can have respiratory or neurological effects.

    Chevron has cut its total toxic air emissions from the refinery's stacks and equipment by 43 percent since 2004, according to the Toxics Release Inventory.

    The company has made "significant investments in environmental controls and equipment over the past four decades,” said Melissa Ritchie, a refinery spokeswoman, in an emailed response to questions. Included are new burners that cut nitrogen oxides, a main ingredient of smog, and a 90 percent cut in emissions from a process called flaring to meet regulations adopted by the local air district.

    "Our refinery has been a proud member of the Richmond community for more than 100 years, longer than the city of Richmond has been incorporated. We would like to be here for a long time to come,” she said.

    "Our refinery has been a proud member of the Richmond community for more than 100 years. We would like to be here for a long time to come.” Melissa Ritchie, Chevron refinery

    But some toxic chemical releases, including benzene, lead, 1,3-butadiene, tetrachloroethylene and sulfuric acid, rose above the 2004 levels in almost every year since then.

    For example, Chevron increased its air emissions of benzene, a known human carcinogen linked to leukemia in workers, to nearly two tons in 2010, up 420 pounds from 2004. In comparison, Alameda and Santa Clara counties have no industries reporting benzene.

    It's not just Chevron. All five refineries near Richmond, including ConocoPhillips and BP Richmond, reported discharging a total of 14 tons of benzene in 2010.

    General Chemicals West also is a major source of emissions, including more than a ton of sulfuric acid, a chemical that can trigger respiratory problems, in 2010. Airgas Dry Ice put 16,884 pounds of corrosive ammonia into the air. Chevron's research site, Chevron Technology Center, reported more than 6,000 pounds of N-hexane and toluene, solvents that can affect the nervous system.

    Topped off with freeway emissions, a commercial port and other factories along most of its 32-mile shoreline, a vortex of pollution swirls around central and North Richmond residents from all directions.

    The city also is pockmarked by dozens of abandoned sites bearing the poisonous vestiges of Richmond’s past. One Superfund site, a former pesticide distributor, continues to leak the banned insecticide DDT and other chemicals into a canal draining to Richmond’s harbor, where many of the city’s Southeast Asian and black residents fish for food.

    Experts say any one of these toxic exposures could be cause enough for concern. But the picture is even more dramatic for Richmond residents when researchers consider the cumulative effects of all of them.

    How much their health suffers, however, is largely a mystery.

    Asthma and heart disease

    Neighbors of Richmond’s toxic corridor experience some health problems measurably more than people living elsewhere in the region.

    “Historically there have been significant health disparities in Richmond compared to Contra Costa County,” said Kinshasa Curl, administrative chief of Richmond’s environmental division, which designed an element in the city's general plan to address environmental and health inequities.

    The health gap is especially striking among low-income, non-white residents, whose homes tend to cluster around the industrial sites. “People of color in Richmond live on average 10 years less than white people living in other parts of the county,” Curl said.

    Richmond residents overall are at significantly higher risk of dying from heart disease and strokes, according to the Contra Costa County Health Service Department’s Community Health Indicators 2010. African-Americans have it worst of all – they are 1.5 times more likely than the county’s average to die from these diseases.

    The health inequities appear most acute for asthma. California Department of Public Health statistics show that residents of all ages in Richmond are 1.5 times more likely than those in the rest of the county to go to hospital emergency departments for asthma attacks. Again, African Americans are especially hard-hit, with asthma emergency visits and admissions about four times that of other racial groups in the county.

    The same pattern holds true nationally. Blacks are much more likely to die of heart disease and stroke than their white counterparts, and black children are more likely to have asthma. The reasons include diet, stress, access to medical care and other factors. The role of environmental pollutants is unclear, but many health experts say they do contribute.

    Around the country, numerous health studies, including a decade-long study by the South Coast Air Quality Management District in the Los Angeles basin, have shown that people near major roadways and ports suffer more severe health problems than people elsewhere. Children have a greater risk of impaired lung function, and babies are more likely to be born prematurely or with lower weights. Near major transportation routes, the risk of cancer is higher due to diesel exhaust and other air contaminants. Around the world, fine particles generated by vehicles and industry have been linked to increased deaths from heart attacks and lung diseases.

    Richmond’s estimated cancer risk is higher than nearby cities, based on a combination of pollution exposures and demographic factors, according to a 2007 University of California, Santa Cruz report on environmental justice in the Bay Area.

    Eric Stevenson, director of technical services at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, said his agency is often asked how it can let people live next door to a refinery. "The question is," he said, "what is the impact and what is the danger of the impact?"

    Health effects near industries in Richmond have not been well studied. It can be difficult for epidemiologists to prove a connection between exposures and diseases because of confounding factors, such as smoking and diet, and how frequently people move around.

    Some people living near Richmond’s industrial backbone complain of problems like headaches, breathing difficulties and fatigue. Others see high rates of autoimmune disorders, such as psoriasis, among their family and friends.

    "I'm the only one in my family who doesn't have asthma," said Johnny White, 58, whose family settled in North Richmond in the 1930s. "Out of my bedroom window, I could see Chevron flaring and fire coming out of the stacks. My mother and grandmother would go around and shut all the windows. We'd have to take my niece, Tracy, to the hospital and get her on a breathing machine.

    "As kids, we used to play basketball in Shields-Reid Park, a few blocks from the refinery,” he said “We'd actually know what hour they would start flaring. Your nose would start running. We'd say let's take a break and go inside."

    Outdoors, indoors, everywhere

    But what starts outdoors doesn’t stay there. It moves inside people’s homes, too.

    A team of scientists came to Richmond in 2006 to conduct a new kind of study, one that would try to answer residents' questions of which outdoor pollutants were coming indoors. At 40 homes in Richmond and 10 in nearby Bolinas, which has no heavy industry, equipment monitored pollution levels outdoors and indoors.

    The results were striking. The outdoor levels around Richmond homes were almost double the levels around Bolinas homes, and the chemicals moved indoors. Vanadium and nickel in outdoors air were among the highest in the state.

    "In Richmond, we see high correlations indoors and outdoors for pollutants that come predominantly from industrial sources," such as sulfates and vanadium, said Rachel Morello-Frosch, an associate professor in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and an author of the study.

    Combustion byproducts such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, were found at higher levels inside Richmond homes than in Bolinas homes. Fine particulates exceeded California’s annual air quality standard in nearly half of Richmond homes.

    Vanadium can irritate the upper respiratory tract lungs, eyes and skin and lead to chronic bronchitis. Sulfates can be inhaled deep into the lungs. Some PAHs are potent carcinogens, and they have been linked to neurological effects, such as reduced IQs, in children exposed in the womb.

    “Toxic pollution from oil refineries doesn’t stay outside; it seeps into homes, where people spend most of their time.”
    -Julia Brody, Silent Spring Institute
    "We found that living near an oil refinery adds exposures that may be hazardous to your health,” said Julia Brody, the study’s lead author and executive director of the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass. “Toxic pollution from oil refineries doesn’t stay outside; it seeps into homes, where people spend most of their time.”

    Standing in her yard in Atchison Village, a World War II Richmond housing development, Sylvia Hopkins looks out on the pink tanks of the Chevron refinery less than two miles away. She let scientists monitor her home in the indoor-outdoor study just to find out what she was breathing.

    “Why do we live here?” she asks rhetorically. “Poor people live here. People don't move here if they have a lot of money. That's the way it is in industrial towns."

    Poor and minority families such as Henry Clark’s have been pushed into the path of pollution in Richmond for 100 years, says Clark, who founded the West County Toxics Coalition. So if there is any justice, he said, Richmond shouldn’t bear any new toxic burdens for the next 100.

    “We already are disproportionately affected. We’re talking about not adding fuel to the fire.”


    Last edited by JohnDoe2; 05-25-2017 at 04:10 PM.

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  4. #4
    MW is offline
    Senior Member MW's Avatar
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    JohnDoe wrote:

    It's not just new jersey.
    No it's not, but the question is, what is presidential candidate Christie doing about the problem in New Jersey?

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  5. #5
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MW View Post
    No it's not, but the question is, what is presidential candidate Christie doing about the problem in New Jersey?
    I think he might block the bridge so people can't get to those bad neighborhoods.

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  6. #6
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    New Jersey reaches $39M settlement with ConocoPhillips

    Posted: May 25, 2017 12:44 PM PDTUpdated: May 25, 2017 12:44 PM PDT

    TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey officials say they have reached a $39 million settlement with energy company ConocoPhillips over ground water contamination.

    Attorney General Christopher Porrino said Thursday that a U.S. District judge in New York approved the settlement with the Houston-based company.

    Porrino says
    the company was one of 50 oil and chemical firms sued in 2007 by the state over groundwater contamination. The state argued that the defendants were responsible for contamination from a gasoline additive called MTBE.

    The defendants include major oil refiners, distributors and gasoline retailers in New Jersey. The state argued that the additive was found in groundwater at sites across the state.

    Porrino says the state has obtained nearly $157 million in settlements with the defendants.

    A message left with ConocoPhillips wasn't immediately returned.


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  7. #7
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    DEP Home | About DEP | Index by Topic | Programs/Units | DEP Online

    Select Language

    Translator Disclaimers
    May 26, 2016
    Contact: Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
    Bob Considine (609) 292-2994
    Caryn Shinske (609) 984-1795



    (16/50) TRENTON – The state’s overhauled contaminated-site cleanup program has marked a milestone with an overwhelming majority of responsible parties complying with a recent deadline to submit remedial investigation reports, a key step toward remediation work.

    Nearly 85 percent of responsible parties who qualified met the May 7, 2016 extended deadline for submitting these reports, which provide detailed descriptions and delineation of contamination present at sites, whether a gas station that has been out of business for year or a sprawling former factory.

    “Without a doubt, the Licensed Site Remediation Professional program, authorized by the Site Remediation Reform Act, is working and has been a real game changer for getting sites cleaned up and improving quality of life throughout the state,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin. “This milestone demonstrates clearly that responsible parties are taking their obligations under the law seriously and are moving forward with cleanups that will create jobs and economic growth.”

    On January 17, 2014, Governor Christie signed a law amending the Site Remediation Reform Act allowing certain responsible parties to qualify for a two-year extension to complete the remedial investigation. In order to qualify, responsible parties had to certify they had hired a licensed site remediation professional and that they were in compliance with all remediation requirements and timeframes, among other requirements.

    Of the 1,149 extensions that were granted, 958 responsible parties submitted remedial investigation reports by the May 7 deadline.

    This leaves 191 responsible parties out of compliance.

    “Those sites that did not meet the deadline will now come under the direct oversight of the DEP,” said Mark Pedersen, Assistant Commissioner for Site Remediation and Solid Waste. “Under direct oversight, the responsible party must develop a public participation plan.

    The responsible parties also must establish a remediation trust fund in the amount of the estimated cost of the remediation and conduct the remediation the DEP directs.”

    The Licensed Site Remediation Professional program was fully phased in on May 7, 2012.

    Under the state’s previous site remediation system, there were approximately 20,000 known contaminated sites in New Jersey, resulting in a large backlog of cases.

    At the end of April, there were approximately 14,200 active cases. Of these, 11,000 cases are being overseen by licensed site remediation professionals. The balance of the cases are primarily residential underground heating oil tank cases, which must address cleanups through a separate process, cleanups overseen directly by the state or federal government, and cases that have been closed but are awaiting permits for monitoring of residual contamination.

    One of the main goals of the Site Remediation Reform Act was to free up DEP staff to work on the most complex cases. The act establishes stringent cleanup requirements and expectations for cleanups overseen by licensed consultants.

    Key provisions of the act include:

    Establishing the Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board to license and establish a code of ethics for consultants hired by responsible parties;
    Setting mandatory time frames for the completion of various phases of investigation and cleanup work;
    Establishing an “affirmative obligation” on the part of responsible parties to remediate their properties;
    Enabling the DEP to order cleanup remedies when those responsible for contaminated properties are deemed to be recalcitrant for failing to take action;
    Allowing the DEP to reject cleanup remedies that would leave a property unsuitable for redevelopment or recreational uses;
    Establishing presumptive cleanup remedies whenever a site is proposed to be redeveloped for residential units, schools or day care facilities;
    Requiring responsible parties to assess sites for potential impacts to public health and the environment.

    Since the program began in 2009, licensed site remediation professionals have issued nearly 8,000 Response Action Outcomes, which are equivalent to the No Further Action letters issued by the DEP. Additionally, LSRPs have closed nearly 5,000 cases, many of which would have been caught up in the DEP backlog, waiting for review.
    For more information on the Site Remediation Reform and the LSRP program, visit:
    Last edited by JohnDoe2; 05-25-2017 at 05:23 PM.

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  8. #8
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Looks like New Jersey is doing a good job?? Is that the gist of it?
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