Porter Ranch California Disaster Darkens Holiday…What About Watts?

Watts Tower
Watts Tower

As the natural gas leak continues to destroy the neighborhood and environment of Porter Ranch California (City of Los Angeles), the lives of the people are being disrupted as many escape the foul stench of rotten eggs; ruining their holidays. Yet farther south within the same city, the predominately working poor neighborhood of Watts is still enduring their own man-made disaster since 2000 and maybe earlier.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the land is contaminated with: lead, arsenic, oil and cancer-causing industrial chemicals from its past use as a steel factory.

An assessment of the vacant site in 2011 found lead, arsenic and industrial compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls at levels that would pose an “unacceptable” health risk to future residents, particularly children. The analysis by a city-hired consultant also found unhealthy levels of naphthalene, an ingredient in mothballs, in vapors in the soil.

Most concerning to both regulators and activists is the soil’s lead content. Children who play in dirt contaminated with the poisonous metal can ingest the dust. Over time it accumulates in their bodies and even at low levels can cause permanent health problems and learning deficiencies.

A toxicologist hired by the housing authority initially called for a cleanup plan that would leave lead in the soil at a level more than six times higher than the state standard of 80 parts per million for residential areas.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control wrote in a 2011 memo to the consultant that the higher level “may not be protective of a child resident” and called for meeting the 80 ppm standard.

But the remediation plan the city drafted earlier this year sets the goal at 315 ppm, nearly four times the state limit

So what is the difference between Porter Ranch and Watts? Their property value.

Porter Ranch vs. Watts.

According to Zillow.com, little more than $1 million. Little has been done to clean up the site in Watts. Watts was also the flash point for the 1965 uprising.

Jordan Downs the housing project, where the toxic site is located, are homes for low-income family who are predominately blacks and Latinos. According to L.A. Curbed, the area is the most contaminated site in California. The intent, according to L.A. Curbed was to spend $1 billion to improve (gentrify) the area and create a mixed-income complex with as many as 1,800 new apartments (replacing the 700 old ones), plus condos, retail, and restaurants.

The toxic waste dump put a hold on this.

So as the people of Porter Ranch are forced to move out after children and people with either weakened immune system are sickened by the gas, CBS L.A. reported that a resource center was created to help the resident of the gas leak, while the residence in Jordan Downs and the surrounding neighborhood are forced to endure the toxic waste dump and run the risk of cancer and other detrimental health-effects upon their lives.

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