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Cerritos City Council Meeting Minutes

MINUTES OF A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE
CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CERRITOS
HELD AUGUST 18, 2009

CALL TO ORDER

The special meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Sierra Room of the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos, California.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

Mayor Pro Tem Cho led the assembly in the salute to the flag.

ROLL CALL

The City Clerk noted attendance of the following Members of the City Council:

Councilwoman Carol Chen
Councilman Jim Edwards
Councilwoman Laura Lee
Mayor Pro Tem Joseph Cho, Ph.D.
Mayor Bruce W. Barrows

PUBLIC COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS

It was noted that those present who wished to comment would be given an opportunity to do so later in the meeting.

MATTERS FOR DISCUSSION AND/OR CONSIDERATION

Consideration and discussion of an informational report relating to information submitted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and consultants for the City of Cerritos as it pertains to air quality issues in the City and EPA's issuance of the 2002 National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) data.

A video was presented entitled "City of Cerritos response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Pollution Study," which detailed the history and circumstances surrounding the air quality issue in the City.

Congresswoman Linda Sanchez commended the City for its forceful and quick reaction to the erroneous air quality report data and for its innovation in environmental quality.  She commented on the negative effects of the release of this information and that steps would be taken to prevent this from happening in the future.  Congresswoman Sanchez added that the Air Quality Management District (AQMD) was swift in its subsequent testing of the Heraeus Metal Processing facility and concluded the plant is using state of the art emission control procedures and emissions are not causing a significant health risk.  She noted further that it is likely the hydrazine level data initially reported was faulty given the probable equipment that was in place at that time, that it appears the air quality levels were safe all along, and that work will continue to rehabilitate the perception that there is a risk in Cerritos.

Congresswoman Grace Napolitano commented on her involvement in attempting to resolve this matter and commended the City for its efforts.  She indicated the information that was released was not verifiable and outdated and that it is the role of Congress Members to ensure that this does not happen again, noting that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had admitted the error and that other agencies have been alerted to their responsibilities in monitoring and reporting information accurately.  Congresswoman Napolitano added that the City and its business community are due an apology for this error and that the AQMD had recently tested the Heraeus facility, finding that there were no violations.

Irantzu Pujadas, District Representative for State Senator Alan Lowenthal, read a statement from Senator Lowenthal commending the City for its swift response to the air quality issue and expressing that the EPA informed the city that the data submitted by the 2002 National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) did not accurately reflect the facility’s 2002 emissions of hydrazine, and in addition the data included incorrect census tract information for the facility.  The letter included reference to pollution from diesel particulate matter in the Southern California area and his efforts to address this issue.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe expressed that the report was in error and a disservice to the community. 

Philip Fine, Ph.D., Atmospheric Measurements Manager for the South Coast AQMD, gave a PowerPoint presentation entitled "Air Toxic Risk in the City of Cerritos" dated August 18, 2009, which included an overview of air quality management agencies; EPA 2002 National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA); how NATA was developed; NATA and diesel particulate matter; 2002 NATA results for Cerritos; South Coast AQMD actions, investigation results, and modeled cancer risk; South Coast AQMD MATES-III study, MATES-III modeled air toxics risk, MATES-III results for Cerritos and nearby communities; and future actions to be taken.

Julia Lester, Ph.D., ENVIRON International Corporation, consultant for the City, gave a PowerPoint presentation entitled "ENVIRON Independent Review for Cerritos Related to the 2002 NATA," dated August 18, 2009, which included particulars with regard to background information; the scope of ENVIRON's independent review and the related results; overview of the 2002 EPA NATA and ENVIRON's review of that assessment; the inaccurate Heraeus facility location in the National Emissions Inventory (NEI); ENVIRON's re-evaluation of the 2002 NATA; review of South Coast AQMD source testing results; discussion of the different methods used by EPA and California to assess cancer risk from diesel exhaust and the continuing scientific controversy over the correct approach and data that should be used; and the lack of coordination among the different agencies that contributed to inaccurate data generation and release to the public.  She noted that the 2002 NATA indicated a wrong location for the Heraeus facility and the wrong emissions level, which resulted in an inaccurate risk assessment.  Dr. Lester presented recommendations:  ENVIRON concurs with the South Coast AQMD's July 10 recommendations for future NATA, which included better interagency coordination and formal review protocols for air toxics databases and analyses; discussion with "high-risk" communities before data release; better documentation and risk communication by EPA; ongoing regular status reports and draft review protocols should be made public; and EPA, California and stakeholders should work together to resolve diesel exhaust risk scientific and regulatory issues.

In response to inquiry of the Council, Matt Lakin, Air Quality Analysis Office Manager, U.S. EPA Region 9, indicated that updated information has been posted to the EPA website with a note that states the Cerritos numbers for the 2002 NATA have been changed throughout the data; concurred that the EPA agrees that the time lag between emissions data gathering, modeling and reporting should be reduced; and apologized for the negative impact on the City of Cerritos of the erroneous information that was released and that the EPA should have done better on communications.  He responded further that the City and the facility were not made aware of the high reading until the NATA analysis was completed and the NATA results should be made available more quickly and those affected notified in a more timely manner.  Mr. Lakin also addressed the self-reporting process and noted that the high hydrazine levels were inappropriately flagged and not an appropriate use of NATA data.

Barry Wallerstein, Executive Officer, South Coast AQMD, commented on the AB 2588 toxic hot spot program, which requires the reporting of toxic air contaminants, and that the hydrazine data was corrected locally in 2002 for the Heraeus facility.  He expressed that there needs to be more synchronization between State toxic control program and information report to the EPA, noting that coordination among air quality agencies has been initiated evidenced by the joint presentation and joint fact sheet prepared in response to this situation.  He noted concurrence with the recommendation of Dr. Lester, particularly with regard to a progress report on coordinated efforts as well as working to resolve differences between California and federal programs related to how diesel exhaust is treated.  Mr. Wallerstein added that the self-reported number in the initial report for the Heraeus plant was likely in error.

In response to inquiries of Congresswoman Napolitano, Mr. Wallerstein addressed field visit procedures as well as auditing and permits review functions and indicated that state and federal agencies would work in coordination and put safeguards in place to avoid a similar incidence in the future.  Congresswoman Napolitano also requested that the word "announcement" on the EPA website with regard to the modified Cerritos numbers be changed to "correction" to convey that incorrect information was previously posted.

In responding to further Council inquiries, Mr. Lakin reiterated that the air quality agencies on both the state and federal levels will be working very closely to ensure that this does not happen again, noting one measure to put in place for the next NATA version that ranks areas and checks them in advance of data release.

Additionally, Linda Murchison, Ph.D., California Air Resources Board (CARB), indicated that more quality assurance routines would be implemented to flag data that is out of the ordinary and that EPA, CARB and South Coast AQMD have made commitments at the highest levels that data will be reviewed more thoroughly and an opportunity to share information among agencies in advance would be implemented.  She noted that when new procedures have been implemented the City would be notified.

Tonia Reyes Uranga, South Coast AQMD Board Member and Long Beach City Councilmember, commended the City for bringing the air quality agencies together to address this matter.  She also noted that there is still work to do with regard to diesel particulate matter in the Southern California area in general and asked Mr. Wallerstein to provide regular updates on the coordinated efforts of the EPA, CARB and South Coast AQMD.

Nikki Noushkam, Cerritos resident, commented on the health risk posed by diesel emission from trucks traveling on the freeways and expressed an expectation that all levels of government will work together to create solutions to this problem.

It was noted by the Mayor that work through the Gateway Cities Council of Governments has been ongoing in this regard and regional attention to diesel emissions continues through the South Coast AQMD and the EPA.  Likewise, Congresswoman Napolitano noted her work on the California Transportation Committee, commented on diesel emission reduction efforts through fuel modifications for ships and trucks, and called for a change in mindset toward the use of mass transit.

Herb Bryan, Cerritos resident, commented on past exposure to air toxics in the San Pedro area and expressed concern with the close proximity of Gonsalves Elementary School to the Heraeus plant as well as nearby residences.

Randy Economy, Cerritos resident, provided copies of State of California Environmental Protection Agency Department of Toxic Substances Control Consent Orders related to Heraeus Metal Processing Inc. for August 2003, January 2004, December 2006/January 2007, August 2007, and December 2008, noting that the Heraeus plant has been cited 9 times in the last 7 years.  He expressed concern that the Heraeus facility presents a health risk to the community through the release of chemical toxics and urged the closure of the facility through legal means.

Kenneth Cha, Cerritos resident, discussed the health risks associated with toxic hot spots, particularly the East 91 to North 605 interchange that was included in a 2006 SCAG Transportation Corridor Study, and the Bloomfield Avenue off-ramp.  He asserted that toxic hot spots contribute to high asthma and cancer rates traced to diesel particulate exhaust and called upon the Council to implement green programs and to encourage local businesses and manufacturing facilities to use low emission, cleaner alternatives.

The Mayor responded that zero pollution vehicles are being utilized and commented on the Gateway Cities Council of Governments work with the EPA in addressing these concerns through legislation and obtaining funding, noting that much of the effort is on the federal level.  It was pointed out that the highest risk is in the ocean off the Port of Long Beach and that the 91/605 hot spot numbers are much lower than the port areas.

Matt Kauble, Cerritos resident, commented on the broader implication of the poor quality of the data with regard to its impact on policy change and how that potentially impacts local governments and businesses given the current fiscal environment.

Diosdado deLeon, Cerritos resident, commented on Cerritos residents who are members of his choir who were stricken with cancer and thanked the Mayor for the letter to the residents regarding this air quality issue.

Chris Tierheimer, Cerritos resident, suggested passage of legislation that would require the use of diesel fuel #1, which would reduce the amount of particulate matter generated from passenger vehicles and trucks.

Ann Stallings, Cerritos resident, questioned the 20 year lag time between the initial data and when it was released to the public, noting that a procedure should be implemented that would flag problem areas, particularly those areas near schools.  She inquired if the City would be able to recover any of the funding used for studies that were undertaken in regard to this matter and it was noted that legal avenues would be pursued.

Rahm Gupta, Cerritos resident, commended the City's response to this air quality issue.

Kent Roberts, Cerritos resident, requested the results of a study by USC/Norris and UCLA in the mid-1980s and early 1990s regarding cancer rates in the immediate area adjacent to Carmenita Middle School.

Staff was directed to obtain the results of the study referenced by Mr. Roberts and it was suggested the report be publicized should other residents be interested in its findings.

Ram Kakkar, Cerritos resident, suggested the response from the South Coast AQMD regarding this air quality issue be included in negative declarations.

Matt Gaskill, Cerritos resident, suggested the City purchase its own air quality monitoring system to avoid the lag time in reporting air quality problems.

Discussion ensued regarding the importance to the City in maintaining ongoing involvement in the status of air quality within the City in general and with respect to the Heraeus facility in particular through continual and timely feedback from the South Coast AQMD, EPA and CARB, given the citations that Heraeus has received as noted earlier in the meeting.  It was noted during the discussion that the City needs to be included in the discussions related to the Heraeus facility Conditional Use Permit from the City of Santa Fe Springs to ensure that the facility is operating within the strict confines of the law.  It was also pointed out that staff is monitoring the situation closely and a report that addresses these issues will be forwarded to the City Council for consideration at a Council meeting.

During ensuing discussion the representatives from South Coast AQMD, EPA and CARB who spoke earlier confirmed and apologized for the lack of quality assurance and quality control of the data among the three entities, which resulted in the release of erroneous information to the public and the subsequent reporting of this data by the media.  Assurances were made by these representatives that this error would not occur again because improved protocols are being developed to ensure accurate data collection, quality assurance and communication with local agencies in a timely fashion.

The Mayor thanked residents for attending the meeting as well as Congresswomen Sanchez and Napolitano and representatives from the various agencies for their assistance in addressing this issue.

ADJOURNMENT

The meeting adjourned at 9:55 p.m.

/s/Josephine Triggs                   
Josephine Triggs, City Clerk
 

ATTEST:

/s/Bruce Barrows                     
Bruce Barrows, Mayor

Approved:  September 10, 2009

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