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Grijalva pushes Environmental Justice Bill

For low income areas hit by pollution
Posted at 7:59 PM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 22:59:26-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Critics say polluting industries are most likely to be near low income, minority neighborhoods. Now Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva is working to pass a bill to make it harder to plant new polluters near existing ones.

The history of the southside is a sad history of groundwater pollution leading to cancer and other illnesses. Now there’s a bill moving through Congress that aims toward environmental justice for communities like this and other measures designed to clean up groundwater pollution that would affect this area.

Large swaths of Tucson’s south side are haunted by chemical pollution from a solvent called TCE. It was widely used for aircraft and electronics work in and around Davis-Monthan, Tucson International and a long list of manufacturing plants. TCE filtered into the ground through leaks and careless handling.

It worked its way into drinking water and into the lives of Eva Carrillo Dong and her neighbors.

“For one thing, the stress of it all, it's always there. You know, I grew up here, drank the TCE since I was an infant, and so it's affected me physically to fit in my family, like my parents, my siblings physically, and it's given us a lot of not just physical issues, but mental health issues.”

She says just getting tap water can trigger fear from years of pollution.

Years of work have made the water safe.

Now there’s a new concern about chemicals called PFAS. They were widely used in fire fighting foam, mainly at the air base and airport. The City of Tucson says it’s been able to keep PFAS out of the drinking water by taking steps like shutting down certain water plants, but making sure has been an expensive problem.

Congressman Raul Grijalva says since a lot of PFAS contamination comes from military bases, a Defense Department bill includes more than five hundred million dollars for PFAS clean up. Tucson will have to compete with other areas to get a share.

But Grijalva’s working towards a broader approach to pollution and how low income communities are far more likely to have polluters in their backyards.

He’s working to pass the Environmental Justice For All Act. Under the proposed law if a polluting factory wants to move in, the EPA would consider not just the effect of that new plant but how the new plant might add to a history of pollution hurting a community.

Grijalva says, “It puts the onus on the federal government to identify impacted communities. That would be susceptible to and they would fit the criteria, in fact, the community, poor, working class next to emitting facilities and permitted facilities and under the civil rights component, predominantly of color.”

Grijalva thinks the bill will pass the House and he’s working on lining up the votes for it to pass the Senate.

Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 40 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.