Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) hosted a press conference along with Elysian Valley and Cypress Park leaders, Los Angeles Councilmember-Elect Mitch O'Farrell and over fifty community members to urge Metrolink to undertake a health risk assessment of their Taylor Yards facility in the Elysian Valley. For years, residents have expressed concern about the impact of Metrolink trains on their health, given that the trains idle for long periods of time in the yard emitting Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM). According to the EPA, DPM, even in small exposures, can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, as well as cause nausea and exacerbate asthma. Long-term exposure to DPM can result in lung inflammation and based upon human and laboratory studies there is considerable evidence that diesel exhaust is a likely carcinogen.
In remarks at the press conference, Schiff stated: "For years Elysian Valley and Cypress Park residents have expressed concern about operations at Taylor Yards, that running Metrolink's trains to clean and maintain them during the day is noisy and emits Diesel Particulate Matter. Metrolink has consistently failed to address community fears about the health risk of living near the facility and stonewalled calls for a health assessment. We are calling on Metrolink -- for what we hope will be the final time -- to commit today to a health risk assessment of the health impacts of emissions from their diesel trains."
"At my urging, Metrolink, has worked to address some of the communities' concerns by beginning the process of acquiring cleaner trains, and committing to powering more trains with electricity, so that the trains can be cleaned and maintained without idling. While I appreciate these steps, they are not a substitute for getting an honest assessment of the current health risks to the community and a sense of what additional steps may be necessary to protect the public."
Two local residents also spoke at the press conference about their health concerns. First, Blaire Lennane, the President of Partners of Dorris Place Elementary, discussed the significant increase in the frequency of asthma among children who attend the school. Asthma can prevent children from participating in athletic activities with their peers and enjoying outdoor adventures with their friends -- something all children should be able to enjoy free of worry for their health.
Another resident, Cecilia Dominguez, lost her husband last year after he developed pulmonary fibrosis which she believes was aggravated by the diesel pollution from the facility. Rey bicycled around the LA River Path near the yard on a daily basis. But in the early 2000s he began to seek medical attention for a persistent cough. In 2008 he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable disease in which lung tissues become thickened, stiff and scarred. Eventually his lungs could no longer function adequately and he passed away last September. Pulmonary fibrosis is not genetically inherited -- it often results from inhaling dust contaminated with occupational chemicals, bacterial, fungal or animal products. Cecilia believes the rail yard may have had an impact on the progression of her husband's disease.
"As a Councilmember, I will demand nothing less than a health risk assessment, because if we don't have a baseline of where we are now, then we won't know how to proceed," said Los Angeles City Councilmember-elect Mitch O'Farrell at the press conference. "I hope that the next time we're all standing here is weeks from now -- as opposed to months -- announcing with Metrolink that a health risk assessment is underway. I will do everything in my power to demand nothing less than a health risk assessment -- it's the right thing to do and it's about time."
"I urge Metrolink to take seriously the community's request to conduct a health risk assessment of the Central Maintenance Facility in Cypress Park," said Congressman Xavier Becerra (CA-34), Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "Area residents deserve as expeditious a process and response as possible to address their air quality and noise concerns. I appreciate the important changes the Metrolink Board of Directors has already implemented at the facility to reduce noise and pollutants. I look forward to continue working with Metrolink on improvements to their operations that will further benefit the community."
Residents for years have expressed concern about the impact of DPM on their community and children. The residents have worked with Metrolink to take a number of steps to cut down on the idling, reduce pollution and minimize noise disruptions. One such step allows Metrolink to clean the trains and conduct some other maintenance activities without idling. Metrolink has also committed to charge more trains through electrical outlets, alleviating the need to run secondary train engines to electrify cars for cleaning and maintenance.
But the community and Rep. Schiff have repeatedly asked Metrolink to undertake a health risk assessment. Thus far, Metrolink has opposed these requests.