Working for a Greener Environment

The SGVOG has found a lack of community involvement in the remediation of environmental issues affecting our region. Reasons for this include a lack of outreach and education; technical, legal, and political jargon that are difficult to understand; and special districts and processes that provide little transparency. While recent efforts from local environmental groups and city comissions are working to address a percieved apathy, the marjority of residents simply do not have the time or resources to navigate through to the core issues. That the ultimate stakeholders are being left out of the decision making process is unacceptable.

Toxic Vapor Intrusion in Southwest Alhambra

When chemicals are dumped into the ground, they can contaminate the soil and groundwater. Vapor intrusion is a way that these volatile chemicals can then enter the air and build up inside buildings and homes. Depending on the type and amount, breathing these vapors can result in serious, detrimental health effects. See the state's Regional Water Quality Control Board geotracker website for a listing of contamination sites. Shown below is the the most active area of groundwater and toxic vapor contamination in the Area 3 Superfund site. The EPA considers this region of the superfund site to be the primary focus of on-going work due to the exceptionally high levels of focused contamination.

In 2016, Lenny Siegel, Executive Director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight, provided an assessment of our toxic vapor problem and how we might remedy the problem. Lenny provided this service under subcontract to the U.S. EPA. In order to redevelop contaminated sites, its important that proper cleanup and mitigations be performed. A copy of Lenny's final report can be found here.

Alhambra has no program for informing the public on vapor intrusion and water contamination. It also has not pushed for testing in nearby residential areas to these contaminated sites. At a minimum, any buildings built over these sites should implement the following mitigations due to the data gaps and hetereogeneity of the geology in this area:

  • In the absence of near-continuous sampling, it is important to require actions at 50% of allowable exposure limits, because otherwise actions might be delayed until months after exceedances occur.
  • A vapor barrier and underlying active vent system must be installed beneath the proposed buildings in the affected area where the vapors are remaining. The presence of vapor barriers combined with active sub-slab venting and engineered air flow inside the buildings will minimize the potential exposure of workers/residents to VOCs due to vapor intrusion to indoor air.
  • Indoor air sampling shall be conducted in each building once construction is completed. Sampling shall occur once before occupancy and at least four times a year for two years, and perhaps more often if sampling shows significant temporal variation.
  • There shall be a contingency plan for reducing indoor air concentrations in each building should any sampling event find indoor air concentrations above 50% of the target indoor air concentrations.
  • The contingency plan shall also provide for an urgency response, including temporary relocation of building occupants, should TCE indoor air concentrations in any building exceed 50% of the Urgent Response Action level
  • In addition to the recommended vapor barriers, elevator shafts shall be sealed according to the requirements of Californiaʼs Vapor Intrusion Mitigation Advisory
  • All residents and permanent employees in the buildings shall be notified that the property is subject to an environmental respons overseen by the Regional Water Quality Control Board
  • All indoor air sampling results shall be made available to building occupants, as well as the public at large. The City web site should provide a link to pertinent documents on the Water Boardʼs Geotracker web site

    Groundwater contamination in the San Gabriel Valley

    The portion of the groundwater basin in our area contains contaminants which are detrimental to our health if ingested.  These contaminants have found their way into our groundwater possibly due to improper chemical disposal in the past.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has deemed this region as a Superfund cleanup site and in 2010 completed its remedial investigation.  The EPA refers to this region as the San Gabriel Valley Area 3 Superfund site.

    Our Group is working for the community by providing an independent assessment of the EPA's water sample data, health risks, and cleanup efforts.  Within the next year, the EPA along with our local cities, water companies, and other municipalities will be making decisions which affect our community during the proposed planning of clean-up strategies.  Our goal is to involve, inform, and educate the public in these areas to help them engage in the decision making process.

    Through a pass-through grant from the EPA, the SGVOG engaged an independent technical advisor to review the EPA's Remedial Investigation report. The advisor's finding indicated data gaps and a lack of analysis. Since then, the EPA has been working to close those gaps. The latest word from Lisa Hanusiak, EPA Area 3 Project Manager, is that the Feasibility Study report will be coming out later this year (2014).

    Download our fact sheet...

    Download our technical advisor's assessment of the Remedial Investigation report...

    Download our response to the assessment and follow-up questions...


    We are currently working with the EPA to implement a Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) program for our region.

    The EPA has tentatively agreed to providing a community outreach and education program to build more environmental awareness and empower us as stakeholders in the decision making process. But it needs input from the community to assess our concerns and where we need help. On November 22, 2013, a group of citizens gathered to discuss the state of our environment and how the EPA can possibly help.

    Download a copy of the meeting slides...