By Nikki Broderick '14, Staff Writer
On Sept. 28, citizens of Pomona gathered at City Hall in protest. The source of tension was a waste transfer center to be built on the 1300 block of East Ninth Street, a block which encompasses one of Pomona’s most impoverished areas. Waste transfer stations are where trash from surrounding areas gets taken from garbage trucks and loaded into different trucks before being driven out to landfills.
The proposed Pomona Valley Waste Transfer Station would sit on a 10.5-acre lot in South Pomona. Although two residences are within a quarter-mile of the site, the area is zoned for industrialization.
Residents of Pomona object to the new waste transfer station because they argue it will produce odor pollution from the trash, ozone-layer-destroying nitrogen oxide and air pollution from the increased amount of trucks driving to and from the transfer station. The proposed waste transfer station would also be within a one mile radius of nine Pomona-area schools, the closest of which is Washington Elementary, a mere half mile from the proposed site.
The Pomona Valley Waste Transfer Station would be built by Grand Central Recycling & Transfer Station, Inc., more commonly known as Valley Vista Services. The company, owned by Mayor of the City of Industry David Perez, has served the San Gabriel Valley for 50 years. Valley Vista Services boasts on its website that it is a family-owned business. There is also a Valley Vista waste transfer station in the City of Industry.
“Committed to building power for sustainable social and eco- nomic change,” the organization One LA has played a large role in driving community activists and rallying residents to protest the proposed waste transfer station. According to Veronica McKelvey, a representative of One LA, the demonstrations against the proposed waste transfer station started around seven to eight months ago.
McKelvey, a third grade teacher at Washington Elementary and a graduate of Pomona College, said, “Residents of Pomona deserve a clean, healthy environment,” adding that South Pomona residents shouldn’t be taken advantage of by the wealthy.
At the Sept. 28 demonstration at City Hall, protesters of the transfer station held signs that read “Don’t Trash Pomona!” “People’s Health Trumps Corporate Wealth” and “Mis Vecinos No Son Basura!” There was a chant of “Don’t trash Pomona!” The rally began at 6:30 p.m. and was followed by a city council meeting of the Planning Commission of Pomona.
An Environmental Impact Report prepared by Applied Planning Inc. for company President Ross Geller stated that in areas one-quarter of a mile from the transfer station the risk of cancer from nitrogen oxide exceeded the established threshold of 10 persons per million people.
The report also stated that there were “clearly a number of adverse impacts.” Among these adverse impacts is a residence located at 1450 9th Street, which would face over quadruple the established safety threshold, with the risk of cancer at just over 45 people per million. The report concluded that, over- all, the environmental impacts of the trans- fer station would be significant to Pomona.
The trash taken to the transfer station would
include that from cities in a 15 mile radius of Pomona. Although this radius includes Claremont, the adverse effects wouldn’t affect citizens of Pomona’s more affluent neighbors. The waste transfer site has become a social justice issue for protesters. Many of the residents concerned are poorer than residents of neighboring cities, and include many for whom Spanish is their primary language. Many protesters believe that Pomona has been unfairly targeted due to their residents’ background, which is primarily low-income and Hispanic.
Trash from Scripps will never have to sit in a waste-transfer station in Claremont, some argue, because of Claremont’s demographics: according to the 2010 Census, 70.6 percent of Claremont’s population is racially “white.”
Pomona’s white population is only 7.3 percent. Many would make this discrepancy the grounds for a case of environmental injustice based on race. As McKelvey said, “There are social justice values at the Claremont Colleges. Where are they when we need them?”
When the Sept. 28 meeting concluded at 11 p.m., the Pomona City Council had yet to hear from any residents. Speeches from residents were postponed until Oct. 12, when another City Council meeting is planned.
Members of One LA and residents of Pomona will continue to protest the waste transfer station until the City Council reaches a decision, and will appeal if the transfer station is approved. “This is only the beginning,” said McKelvey.