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  • Writer's pictureGabriel San Roman

Slingshot: A Deeper Dig Into Santa Ana's Contaminated Soil

It's not just lead that's dangerously deposited in the soil of Santa Ana.

A study recently published in the Environmental Science: Process and Impacts journal takes a look at the contamination levels of seven other heavy metals in the city, as well. The effort is a continuation of a community-academic partnership that began in 2017 between PloNo Santa Ana and UC Irvine.

The question of lead had already been previously studied; researchers uncovered a lead contamination crisis in Santa Ana, with particularly hazardous levels in poorer Latino neighborhoods.

This time, other heavy metals--arsenic, manganese, chromium, nickel, copper, cadmium, zinc--were considered from field samples gathered in the summer and fall months of 2018. Researchers hypothesized that poorer census tracts where more Latino children lived would have higher soil contamination.

And that could lead to several medical conditions depending on the outcome.

Lead exposure has been shown to have harmful health effects, including asthma as well as adverse neurological and cognitive conditions in children. Nickel and chromium can lead to asthma and inflammation. Unhealthy cadmium exposure can cause high blood pressure, hypertension and osteoporosis.

Arsenic carries heftier consequences as chronic exposure has been linked to cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.

The soil samples in Santa Ana were culled from roads, parks, gardens, schools, industrial regions, business and residential areas. What researchers found were higher levels of lead contamination concentrated in downtown Santa Ana where mostly working class Latino families live. Arsenic and manganese didn't follow the same pattern with the former being more concentrated in the western part of the city and the latter on the east side.

But chromium, cadmium, and zinc all did, save for high concentrations also stretching down south by the 55-freeway.

What does that mean socio-economically speaking? Census tracts where the median household income was below $50,000 had 390 percent more lead, 92.9 percent more zinc, 56.6 percent more cadmium and 54.3 percent more arsenic contamination than wealthier neighborhoods.

Where it concerns children, the study noted that nearly half of soil samples exceeded the state's 80 ppm safety threshold for lead deposits in school and residential play areas. In residential areas alone, more than half of the samples exceeded the 400 ppm Environmental Protection Agency standard.

Arsenic exceeded the state screening levels. Other heavy metals like chromium, nickel and cadmium surpassed at least one screening level.

And then there's the cancer risk.

"Compared to risk during adulthood, risk during childhood was approximately 9-times higher for non-carcinogenic risk, and 3-times higher for carcinogenic risk," the report states.

The source of heavy metals in Santa Ana soil could be from emissions both past and present. Traffic pollution from four main freeways is a probable source as well as the city's industrial corridors. But there's also John Wayne Airport to the south and small-scale potential contributors like auto repair and body shops more easily embedded in residential areas.

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the respiratory disease has dominated headlines with regard to Santa Ana for much of the past year-and-a-half. But heavy metal soil contamination remains a major concern and the front of another pitched battle over the wellbeing of Santaneros, especially the children.

The report outlines a series of necessary actions to be taken including remediation of the soil, increased awareness, better access to healthy foods and healthcare.

In other words: grow a healthy Santa Ana from the soil up.

- Gabriel San Román

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Your Mouse Muckraker / Photo by Federico Medina

Mouse Muck

You down with PPP?

Lobbyists, tourism promoters and the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce sure have definitely gotten their hands on some of that federal Paycheck Protection Program feria!

The Small Business Administration stopped taking applications for the pandemic relief loans last month. But the program didn't end before funds made their way to prominent players in Anaheim politics.

Let's have a look using ProPublica's PPP loan tracker, shall we!

Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau

At the onset of the pandemic, Anaheim City Council rushed to bailout Visit Anaheim to the tune of $6.5 million. The Disneyland Resort remained mostly shuttered for the better part of a year and the city later used federal bailout bucks to shore up Visit Anaheim, also known as the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau.

But the tourism booster group headed by Jay Burress also applied twice for $1.35 million in relief money and was approved on Jan. 23, 2021 and more recently on May 7, 2021. According to the tracker, Visit Anaheim marked the funds to help cover payroll and reported 92 jobs.

Anaheim Chamber of Commerce

Anaheim Independent blogger Matt Cunningham described federally enhanced unemployment checks as "overly-generous" as part of one of his overall screeds against considering premium pay for grocery workers in the city. But would he have that same energy for the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, which lists his wife as Senior VP, as they took advantage of PPP?

Like Visit Anaheim, the Chamber called on Uncle Sam twice. With only 11 jobs reported, it applied for loans of $107,802 and $128,840 to help cover payroll (and $1 in utility payments, strangely enough). Both were approved this year in January and April.

FSB Core Strategies

Anaheim is the land of lobbying. There you'll find PPP loans, too. Let's begin with Jeff Flint's prominent FSB Core Strategies, which counts the Mouse House among a portfolio of past clients. At the onset of the pandemic, the company applied for $433,731 in federal relief to cover payroll with a reported staff of 34 employees.

Curt Pringle & Associates

Once upon a time, Pringle was king boogeyman in Anaheim. The former mayor-turned-lobbyist has seen his prowess diminish in recent years with splits within the Resort Elite, but it would be premature to pen any political obituaries. On the PPP front, Curt Pringle & Associates applied for $175,000 and reported 9 employees. It was approved back in April 2020.

KLM Strategies

Former Anaheim councilwoman Kris Murray is now in the business of consulting after eight years of subsidizing the Mouse House and surrounding hotels at every whim from the dais. Her KLM Strategies company needed some subsidization itself when it applied for $20,833 in PPP money for one job reported and was approved on May 1, 2020. Happy May Day, indeed, Comrade Murray!

SRH Management

Current Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu is president of SRH Management which does business as El Pollo Loco which is why I deemed Sidhu back in my "Don Palabraz" blogging days as "El Sidhu Loco." Of course, SRH applied for that PPP cheddar in the early days of the CARES Act. Citing 74 workers, it sought $406,001 in federal money, much of which was earmarked for payroll purposes. But the filing also outlined $21,100 to cover commercial rent expenses and $5,000 for utilities.

As the ProPublica tracker notes, loans can be forgiven for companies and nonprofits if they meet a certain criteria such as not laying off anyone in a proscribed period of time, but the SBA hasn't released any specifics. Still, ProPublica recently reported that aggregate data shows 99 percent of the total dollar value doled out has been forgiven.

So who's down with PPP? In Anaheim, damn near every last homie. Remember that for the next ideological crusade in town against Big Gov't!

By the Bylines

In this month's "Off the Page" column for LibroMobile, I highlight a local show on Radio Santa Ana, a low-power FM station housed at El Centro Cultural de Mexico. Yuri Velasco hosts and produces "Canciones Bordadas," an hour-long journey into songs and stories that stitch us all together.

A former Chulita Vinyl Club DJ in Santa Ana, Velasco brought eclectic playlists with her on the airwaves amid the pandemic. The end result? A bilingual show with multilingual music that's a reflection of Santa Ana itself!

Read and tune in!

Gracias for reading all the way to the end! Now, don't forget to tell your friends to join the San Roman syndicate by subscribing!

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Lead photo: A playground at El Salvador Park / Photo courtesy City of Santa Ana website

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