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Lawsuit launched to protect Sonoma County residents from airport lead pollution

Press Release, April 30, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

Environmental groups filed a formal notice today of their intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect northern Sonoma County residents from deadly airborne lead emitted by planes using local airports.

California has repeatedly submitted air-permitting rules for northern Sonoma County that failed to include emission standards for lead, a deadly neurotoxin. Under the Clean Air Act the EPA is required to develop air-quality plans when states submit deficient plans. The plans are designed to help states keep their air pollution below federal limits.

“The EPA needs to act expeditiously and develop new permitting rules that will protect our communities from the irreversible effects of lead poisoning,” said Caroline Cox, a senior scientist at the Center for Environmental Health. “Young children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure and deserve regulations that provide the highest protections available.”

Lead pollution is a serious problem in northern Sonoma County, where several local airports, including the Sea Ranch, Healdsburg Municipal and Cloverdale Municipal, service small piston-engine powered aircrafts typically used for corporate and private travel. Such planes use aviation gas, the only remaining type of gasoline containing lead. According to the EPA, the more than 167,000 piston-engine planes in operation are responsible for nearly half of all lead emissions nationwide.

“There’s no excuse for allowing small planes to continue to poison Sonoma County’s air,” said Robert Ukeiley, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA needs to take immediate steps to reduce the dangerous threats posed by toxic lead.”

A 2011 Duke University study reported that as far back as 2010, EPA research showed that “the lead in air surrounding airports can be inhaled directly, or the lead may be ingested by children after it settles into soil or dust.”

The Duke study found that higher levels of lead were detected in North Carolina children living within half a mile of an airport where planes use leaded gas. The study concluded there was a “significant association” between leaded aviation fuel and higher blood lead levels in children.

Lead is a heavy metal that can persist in the environment indefinitely. Continuous exposure causes it to accumulate in the body’s organs and bones. Short-term exposure to lead can result in abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, headaches, irritability, loss of appetite, memory loss, pain or tingling in the hands or feet and weakness. Long-term exposure can result in kidney and brain damage, hypertension, impairments to the immune and reproductive systems and even death.

Lead poisoning is also a threat to wildlife. Northern Sonoma County is home to endangered steelhead trout, as well as protected coho and Chinook salmon, which rely on the Russian River to spawn. The successful recovery and health of the Chinook salmon is critically important to Southern Resident killer whales, which depend almost exclusively on the fish as their food.

SOURCE: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2019/sonoma-county-lead-pollution-04-30-2019.php

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags ,

PG&E plans to repaint transmission towers coated with lead paint 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
PG&E is undertaking a campaign to repaint about 6,000 electric transmission towers coated with lead-based paint, including 65 of the tall structures in Sonoma County.
Letters will be sent this week to owners of the 32 properties where the towers are located months ahead of the work that’s expected to begin in the fall, said Nicole Liebelt, a PG&E spokeswoman.
The letters will be followed by phone calls and personal contact by PG&E representatives.
While use of lead paint is still allowed on commercial structures, Liebelt said PG&E is voluntarily undertaking the repainting program — expected to cost $300 million to $400 million — out of concern for pubic health. PG&E no longer uses lead paint on its towers, Liebelt said.
Read more at: PG&E plans to repaint transmission towers coated with lead paint | The Press Democrat

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Sonoma State University asbestos lawsuit trial begins

Paul Payne, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Testimony began Wednesday in the case of a former Sonoma State University employee who claims he was forced to quit his job after reporting the school’s mishandling of asbestos and lead, including one incident in which a custodian was ordered to remove contaminants from a campus rooftop with a leaf blower.
Thomas R. Sargent, 48, of Santa Rosa, seeks $15 million in damages in a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that retaliation from top-ranking officials ended his 24-year career at the Rohnert Park institution. The school denies his claims.
In opening statements, his lawyer said trouble started in 2012 when Sargent, the school’s environmental health and safety inspector, discovered a chalky substance atop the three-story physical education building.
When he reported it to his boss, department director Craig Dawson, a decision was made to apply a coating to the roof to seal it off.But before that could happen, the roof had to be cleaned of the substance, determined to be lead. Dawson balked at Sargent’s suggestion to hire a private contractor to do the work and instead ordered a maintenance worker to disperse it with a leaf blower, said attorney Dustin Collier.
“All while the children’s day care center was operating nearby,” Collier told the seven-man, five-woman jury.After Sargent reported the incident to state and local officials, he received his first negative employee evaluation in an otherwise spotless tenure, his lawyer said.
Tensions grew a year later when he reported asbestos dust, believed to be from decades-old ceiling and floor tiles, collecting inside Stevenson Hall, the main faculty office building. Sargent was further reprimanded after informing state workplace safety regulators at Cal/OSHA and later received a temporary suspension, Collier said.
Read more at: Sonoma State University asbestos lawsuit trial begins | The Press Democrat