LA County Public Works will use approximately 95 heavy-duty diesel trucks to haul sediment from the Devil’s Gate Dam and Hahamongna Watershed. They have approval to make a maximum of 425 round-trips per weekday for 8 months annually for 4 years during the Construction phase. The total volume to be removed over the next four years is 1.7 million cubic yards and will require heavy-duty diesel equipment to excavate and to haul the debris. By Court order, the Project will use diesel trucks that are compliant with the 2010 EPA emissions standards (“2010-compliant trucks”).
Diesel exhaust contains known carcinogens and harmful pollutants that degrade respiratory and cardiovascular health, increase cancer risk, and affect long-term health outcomes for children especially. Frequent and consistent exposure of children and the elderly to roadway pollution leads to severe health problems. The most dangerous ingredient of diesel exhaust is a very small particle class (“ultrafine”) that is currently not regulated by state law, so construction projects do not need to calculate how much will be generated because of the project.
Every diesel truck is a source of this “ultrafine” diesel particulate matter (DPM). More trucks = more cancer risk. It doesn’t matter if the truck has a reliable way of controlling diesel emissions since current technology does not capture the carcinogenic “ultrafine” DPM.
LCF 4 Healthy Air contends that the Project as it is currently designed will exceed the allowable limits on NOx and particulate matter stated in the Project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) creating a public health hazard.
The 3,000 students attending 18 schools and day care centers within 0.5 mile of the Project are already impacted by freeway pollution. Many of these students will be outside during the most aggressive portion of the 8-month hauling season (June-July) since the entry-exit routes are on Oak Grove and Berkshire Place (the “LCF” side). The amount of diesel pollutants (NOx) will be grossly higher around the schools since the truck engines do not control diesel pollutants (NOx) when the trucks are idling, creeping, and moving slow speeds.
Current state law does not require annual smog checks for diesel trucks, in contrast to what is required of all passenger vehicles. Approximately 50% of heavy-duty diesel truck owners in California comply with the state regulations for annual vehicle maintenance (smoke inspection tests that are self-administered). This 50/50 compliance/noncompliance rate implies that the diesel pollution caused by the Project will be far greater than what was approved in the Project’s review process. The County does not currently require proof from its contractors that all diesel trucks used on County projects are compliant with California law.
Technology failures in the diesel emissions control systems trigger engine recalls mandated by the EPA, but the recalls are voluntary and trucks with recalled engines remain in use by California and out-of-state trucking companies that haul jobs here. A dedicated and successful method of retrieving and repairing engines under recall does not exist in California.
Engines that are certified as meeting the 2010 EPA emissions standards (“low emission”) do not perform in the real-world at the same standard. State regulators test these vehicles to determine how the engines control diesel pollution when the vehicles are performing construction duties and on the highway. Results show that harmful pollutants are still discharged at high rates even from new engines. What was certified as a “low emission” performer pollutes at 2x, 3x, and sometimes 15x greater than originally certified when the vehicle is actually on the road.
Los Angeles County Public Works has:
A meeting of the community was hosted by LCF 4 Healthy Air on December 5, 2018 to address the public health concerns that this Project creates. The presentation led by Dr. Elizabeth Krider detailed the project and its potential impact to the health of nearly 3000 children in the area. The meeting was attended by more than 200 community members, Senator Anthony Portantino, representatives from Los Angeles County Public Works, and LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette.