Business East Edition Herald American Lynwood Press Northeast Edition The Press West Edition

Area mayors seek answers to freeway, truck pollution

SOUTH GATE — Mayors from five area cities took part in a joint news conference at South Gate Park Nov. 17, calling for united action to reduce air pollution along the Long Beach (710) Freeway which passes through their boundaries.

A key topic was promoting the use of non-polluting fuels such as compressed natural gas (CNG) in the thousands of diesel and gasoline powered trucks that traverse the freeway from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to large rail yards in Commerce and East Los Angeles.

The conference was sponsored by Cummins Westport, a Canadian firm that manufactures a “near zero emission” motor; Waste Management Disposal, which displayed a trash truck using the motor; and Southern California Gas Company.

Representatives from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and the California Energy Commission spoke in favor of the clean fuel trucking as key to reducing air pollution.

Most of the speakers noted health issues such as asthma, cancer and other respiratory problems personally, in family members, friends and members of their communities. Most of those problems were attributed to air pollution from years of living along the freeway.

“As a person who grew up with asthma, I’ve experienced firsthand the impact of pollution in my community,” said South Gate Mayor Jorge Morales, who hosted the conference.

“Times have changed since then, but we can do a lot more. We have the technology to make a big difference in the 710 Freeway area by promoting clean fuel trucks,” Morales said.

“The city of Compton sits between multiple freeways, and my constituents are particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of poor air quality,” Mayor Aja Brown said.

“Today we have an opportunity to deploy more clean trucks to greatly improve the quality of life for families and children in our cities. Many people near the 710 have asthma. We can come together for solutions. It’s all about equity and justice for all,” she said.

“Commerce is at the end of the route [from the ports to rail yards]. We have two of the largest rail yards in the area and two freeways,” Mayor Lilia De Leon said.

“Some 27,000 trucks use the route and it’s expected to reach 92,000 by 2035. And about 9,000 trucks turn east on Washington Boulevard. We have to look for alternative solutions. Too many of our children are suffering,” De Leon said.

Mayor Eduardo de la Riva said Maywood residents have long been impacted by two pollution causing entities, the freeway and the now closed Exide Battery plant in Vernon.

“Talks are under way to expand the 710. That will bring more pollution closer to our children. We have a duty to get more clean in trucking,” de la Riva said.

Bell Mayor Ali Saleh said “I grew up [in the area] with a lot of smog.”

He noted that his three boys play soccer and the soccer games must be halted periodically so players can use breathing devices.

“We must make a change,” Saleh said. “The technology is there. Health is a big issue. We must continue to work together.”

“Most pollution is from diesel burning trucks,” said Matt Miyasato, deputy executive officer for science and technology advancement at the AQMD office.

He applauded efforts to promote clean air engines and added, “this is just a start. We look forward to our collaboration with local cities to clean up the air.”

Randy Roesser, acting deputy director of the California Energy Commission, said transportation by trucks, buses and cars are major causes of air pollution. He noted that the commission has granted about $140 million to owners of more than 3,000 trucks convert to natural gas fuel.

“We are pushing efficiency in the ports and plan to replace many motors with electric power,” Roesser said.

Charles Ker, public relations manager for Cummins Westport praised Waste Management and SoCal Gas for promoting the company’s motors.

He said Waste Management was the first in the area to use one of the firm’s clean air motors in 2007. Those motors have been improved and in October the company introduced the “near zero emission” engine.

Ker said the company would like to deploy the technology to school buses, garbage trucks and all haulers.

“This is a critical effort,” said Lisa Alexander, director of technology solutions for SoCalGas. “Clean air helps schools and businesses by reducing absenteeism for health reasons.

“We are delighted to be part of the project to clean our community. We are vested in the health of our residents,” she added.