Assemblymember Bocanegra’s Bill for Environmental Testing at Whiteman Airport Glides Past Committee

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Legislation Requires Air Quality and Soil Testing

(SACRAMENTO) – Recently, Southern California has been impacted by contaminated sites that are adjacent to residential neighborhoods, and residents are unaware of the potential health impacts associated with those sites. In Vernon, the Exide battery recycling plant emitted lead, arsenic and other dangerous pollutants over decades that contaminated the soil in as many as 10,000 homes.  And in Chatsworth, a park was closed for eight years because the soil was contaminated from a shooting range operated in the 1940s and '50s, which had bullets and shell casings with lead and a variety of other chemicals.

Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra’s (D-Pacoima) legislation to help fund air quality and soil testing near Whiteman Airport in Pacoima and at similar airports was approved by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on a 7-1 vote.  AB 483 would require the California Air Resources Board (ARB), and other local air quality districts, to conduct air quality testing various toxic-air pollutants.  Additionally, the measure would direct the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to test the soil around the airports for toxic materials such as lead and arsenic, and to determine if an airport’s contaminated soil poses a threat to a nearby groundwater basin or neighborhood. 

“Aircrafts are one of the few machines that still run on leaded gasoline, and it’s important to know the environmental impact they have on a surrounding community,” said Assemblymember Bocanegra. “The residents of Pacoima are rightfully concerned that these small, urban airports are harmful to their health and their children’s health.”

Most non-commercial airports were built in the early 20th century in areas that were sparsely populated then, but are now tucked in the middle of residential neighborhoods.  Given the state’s interest in protecting the environment, and its commitment to improving disadvantaged urban communities, it is important to understand how these airports fit into broader environmental policy objectives.

“Testing the air quality and the soil surrounding Whiteman Airport is long overdue,” said Assemblyman Bocanegra.  “People deserve to know if there are contaminants in their own backyard caused by potentially harmful aircraft exhaust.  When leaded gasoline goes up, it has to fall somewhere.”