‘Cal Enviroscreen’ Ranks Zip Codes Statewide By Pollution

New Screening Tool Provides Broad Snapshot of Total Environmental Burden

Factory in West Fresno. (Sasha Khokha/KQED)

A factory in West Fresno. (Sasha Khokha/KQED)

It’s the first environmental health screening tool of its kind in the country.

California’s Environmental Protection Agency is rolling out “Cal Enviroscreen” which helps pinpoint communities that may be particularly vulnerable to pollution. And it’s not just for wonks. You can look up your own community. Cal Enviroscreen measures a broad range of pollutants and health indicators in every zip code across the state.

The most vulnerable community in the state? West Fresno, one of Fresno’s poorest areas. Other zip codes in the top ten include Bakersfield, Stockton and the Los Angeles-area communities of Vernon, Baldwin Park, and Boyle Heights.

Toxicologist Dr. George Alexeeff heads the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. He says California regulators have done a pretty good job of targeting individual pollution problems, like reducing diesel exhaust, or eliminating particular chemicals in drinking water.

But that kind of regulation doesn’t give a broad snapshot of the total environmental burden some communities face. Continue reading

“Texting” is Latest Weapon in War on Central Valley Pollution

By: Sasha Khokha

Weedpatch residents voice concerns to environmental officials. (Photo: Tracey Brieger)

Weedpatch residents address concerns to environmental officials about pollution problems in Kern County. (Tracey Brieger: Californians for Pesticide Reform)

What would you do if you saw a pipe spewing black water into your street? Would you know who to call? What if you could take a picture of it and text it in to someone who promised to look into the problem, no questions asked? A new website could make it easier for residents of some of Kern County’s poorest farmworker towns to do just that.

You don’t usually see tour buses bouncing along the county’s rural roads, pock-marked with potholes, winding past almond orchards and miles of dusty vegetable fields. But recently, some two dozen state, local, and federal officials climbed aboard a giant bus to visit farmworker communities facing a host of environmental problems.

Tom Frantz, a local air quality activist and almond farmer helping to lead the tour, bellowed into the bus intercom. “On our right is the community recycling center. San Joaquin valley is the trash dump for Los Angeles,” he said.  The bus stopped at a composting facility that handles green waste and food scraps from L.A.

“This is where two workers from Arvin tragically died when they were asked to go down into drainage pipe that was filled with hydrogen sulfide,” Frantz explains. Continue reading