Reacting to a study that shows minorities are more likely than whites to live near hazardous waste treatment plants and dumping centers, Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon called Wednesday for the formation of a task force to reverse such inequities.
The proposed “environmental justice task force” would try to reduce the number of hazardous sites built in minority communities and would call for measures to lessen the impact of existing sites on those neighborhoods, he said.
“I don’t think, frankly, that many people were surprised with the study, but I think it’s time we deal with the issue,” said Alarcon, who represents a district in the northeast San Fernando Valley made up mostly of Latino residents.
The study, by researchers at Occidental College, used computer and geographic satellite techniques to show that minorities in Los Angeles County are three times more likely than whites to live within half a mile of a hazardous waste site.
It examined 82 hazardous waste treatment, storage or disposal facilities in Los Angeles County registered with the state Department of Toxics and documented the ethnic makeup of the population around the sites.
But Alarcon, who has long fought to close the city-run Lopez Canyon landfill near Lake View Terrace, wants to expand the task force’s focus beyond hazardous waste treatment sites to also look at the location of landfills such as Lopez Canyon and other potential sources of toxic hazards.
Alarcon has charged in the past that Lopez Canyon, a 400-acre facility that takes in about 80% of the city’s trash, regularly emits hazardous gas and leaks fluids into the soil.
His district, which he complains has been targeted for potentially hazardous facilities, also has two other operating landfills, dozens of inert and sanitary dumps that have been closed and two sewage dumping sites.
Alarcon’s motion instructs the city’s Environmental Affairs Department to form a task force and draft a study within 30 days, assessing whether the Occidental College study accurately reflects conditions in Los Angeles.
The motion will probably be referred to the council’s Environmental Quality and Waste Management Committee for consideration within the next month.