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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

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October 2010 Newsletter

EPA Administrator Jackson
Tours Environmental Justice Sites in Oakland

As part of a joint national environmental justice tour by EPA and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld, Representative Barbara Lee and members of the CBC toured Oakland, California on October 16 to highlight challenges faced by underserved communities in California.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (right) at Mandela Foods, a worker-owned grocery store in West Oakland.

For more photos and other related materials, see the E-Media Kit.

Several poor and minority communities in Oakland and the surrounding Bay Area suffer from disproportionate health impacts of pollution and have historically had less opportunity to participate in environmental decisions affecting their neighborhoods. The tour was designed to raise awareness of local issues and highlight the collaborative efforts of EPA, local government agencies, community groups and citizens.

The day-long environmental justice bus tour stopped at various Oakland locations, including the West Oakland AMCO Superfund site, a former chemical distribution facility where EPA is monitoring the air for toxic pollution. AMCO was added to the Superfund National Priorities list in 2003 because volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, metals and organochlorine pesticides contaminate the groundwater and soil. As EPA moves forward with the site remediation, cleanup levels are being set to ensure protection of the surrounding residents.

The residential neighborhood adjacent to the AMCO site is also the target of an EPA investigation that revealed high concentrations of lead in soils. EPA is now engaged in the West Oakland Residential Lead Cleanup that plans an innovative approach to lowering the risk from exposure to lead. The tour members received an update of the lead cleanup efforts at an EPA-hosted community meeting in nearby Prescott Park.

The tour also included a stop at the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, a community-based environmental justice organization that partners with EPA to assess the impacts to the community of goods movement to and from the Port of Oakland.

Leaders also visited the Mandela Marketplace, an urban food cooperative focused on bringing healthy foods to an underserved community. Located adjacent to the BART station, the Mandela Marketplace works directly with community residents, local, state and federal agencies, non-profits, small business owners, and farmers to support strategies to meet food needs, expand economic opportunity and increase self-reliance of low-income and disenfranchised people and minority farmers.

At the Lake Merritt BART Station, near Oakland's Chinatown, the group met with leaders of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and the Chinatown Coalition Partners about preserving the area's historic roots while promoting a healthy and sustainable neighborhood with affordable housing, local green jobs, and access to transit and open space.

The group closed the tour with an environmental justice Town Hall meeting at the Oakland Federal Building, which provided a forum for EPA and elected leaders to hear the concerns of community members, students and religious leaders.

Oakland marked the first West Coast stop in the nationwide environmental justice tour which has so far visited South Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi and Georgia as part of an effort by the Obama Administration to assess environmental issues in underserved communities. The Oakland tour was powered by a zero-emissions hydrogen-cell fuel bus. AC Transit has three zero-emissions hydrogen-cell fuel busses, purchased with the support of $7.4 million in federal funding that Congresswoman Lee worked to secure.

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