Archive for August, 2010

Chromium-six linkfest

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

 Revelations that a growing plume of chromium-six-laced groundwater is spreading through L.A.’s acquifers and soil hasn’t captured the attention it deserves in a summer of high-anxiety about Afghanistan, the endless recession, the oil spill in the Gulf, and, of course, Lindsay Lohan’s rebab. The highly toxic industrial chemical has forced the L.A. Department of Water and Power to quietly close fifty-five wells after long downplaying the problem. Chromium-six, a.k.a. chrome-six and hexavalent chromium, owes much of its presence here to Cold War military production and plating operations. Until recently, L.A., Burbank and Glendale dealt with its chromium-six tainted water by dumping it in the Los Angeles River or blending it with clean supplies, because it is a difficult chemical to filter at traditional treatment facilities.

I’ve writing about the subject for close to sixteen years, and figured I’d post those stories from latest to oldest so those affected by this under-the-radar, oft-lethal chemical can understand its history without alarmism or apathy.

* “Clearing the waters: New charges point out dearth of prosecutions in chromium 6 cases of contaminated groundwater - Los Angeles CityBeat, November 18, 2004.

* Impossible Choices: while cleaning up solvents in L.A.’s water supply, did regulators pull another potentially deadly chemical into the pipes?” - Los Angeles CityBeat, July 8, 2004.

* Dropping Science: chromium-six is a known carcinogen, but the implosion of a blue-ribbon panel of scientists means we still don’t know how much is safe in L.A.’s drinking water” - Los Angeles CityBeat, June 3, 2004.

* “Troubled Waters: chromium-six is the same poison made infamous by Erin Brockovich. Now it poses a ‘clear and present danger’ to the water supply of Los Angeles” - Los Angeles CityBeat, April 22, 2004.

* “DWP Failed to Inform Council on Tainted Water”Los Angeles Times, September 15, 2000 

Calls for Reducing Chromium in Water Go Unheeded - Los Angeles Times, August, 20, 2000.

* “Lockheed Fears Persist: Burbank-Area Residents Dispute Cancer-Incident Survey” - Daily News of Los Angeles, November 3, 1996.

* “Memos Detail Lockheed Settlement”Daily News of Los Angeles, September 30, 1996.

* Lockheed Quagmire Grows: Contractor Wants Pentagon to Pay Hunk of Toxic Cleanup Tab” - Daily News of Los Angeles, September 15, 1996.

* “Toxic Law May Have Swayed Lockheed Case” – Daily News of Los Angeles, August 26, 1996.

* Lockheed Resolves Toxic Claims: Residents near Burbank B-1 plan to receive $60-million” - Daily News of Los Angeles, August 4, 1996.

Been under deadline for new book, so lot’s of ground and air to make up.

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

* The startling picture of smogged out L.A. was the cover shot for a Wired magazine feature story about Southern California’s epic fight for blue skies against it’s own people’s auto addiction. They were gracious to highlight our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, and interviewed me. Here’s a little blurb:

“… People in Los Angeles were very proud of their air,” said Chip Jacobs, one of the authors of Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Smog in Los Angeles. “They said that L.A. was the land of pure air, and that moving there could cure tuberculosis and alcoholism. They thought there had to be one simple answer.” The day after the first big smog, city officials pointed to the Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Street Plant as the source of the thick cloud. The facility manufactured an ingredient in synthetic rubber called butadiene. Public pressure temporarily shut down the Aliso Street Plant, but the smog episodes continued to get even worse. Undeterred, Los Angeles Mayor Fetcher Bowron announced in August that there would be “an entire elimination” of the problem within four months. But the search for the culprit of the “gas attacks” — and the ensuing battle to curb the culprit’s emissions — was just beginning …”

* An interesting MSNBC piece about scientists’ progress in creating artificial lungs. Gosh, L.A. would be the perfect test city.

” … Nearly 400,000 people die of lung diseases each year in the United States alone, according to the American Lung Association, and lung transplants are far too rare to offer much help. But how to replicate these spongy organs? Niklason’s team stripped an adult rat’s lung down to its basic structural support system, its scaffolding, to see if it would be possible to rebuild rather than start completely from scratch …”

* For now, forget using the prospect of a green-jobs bonanza to convince Congress and the American public to support the national climate bill stalling in Washington, D.C.  From the L.A. Times blog.

* Speaking of cap-and-trade, California and other regions, though not the first ones envisioned, may enact their own greenhouse market. Good luck getting voters to support it in this jobless recovery or keeping fraud at bay. From the L.A. Times story.

“As the nation’s most populous state and the world’s eighth-largest economy, California wields significant influence. International and national controls are needed to curb global warming, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday, “but California and the rest of the Western Climate Initiative partners are not waiting to take action.”

” … The Western initiative would cut emissions 15% below 2005 levels. It would transition the region to “a green economy that will reduce our dependency on oil, increase our energy security and create jobs and investment now,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. The trading program would allow companies to meet targets by purchasing less expensive “offsets” from forests, agriculture or garbage dumps when companies in those sectors store carbon dioxide beyond what they would have emitted in the normal course of business …”

* I’ve probably written a dozen stories about L.A.’s unheralded crisis with deadly hexavalent chromium (otherwise known as “chrome-six,” or the Erin Brockovich chemical) creeping and moving through its acquifiers and land. In 2004, I did a series about it for Southland Publshing and in 2000 I covered the subject for the L.A. Times. Unfortunately, the problem is getting worse. Here’s the L.A. Daily News coverage (and the Daily News deserves lots of credit for its mid-1990s stories on chrome-six related to Lockheed Corp; I was lucky to have on the team that wrote about it). With all the focus on greenhouse gases and the drought, we’ve all forgotten about a deadly industrial poison spreading through wells and leaving local officials with tricky decisions to make.