Farmers Field Environmental Impact Report Omits Toxic Perchlorate Fireworks Usage
* Los Angeles Planning Commission green lights AEG’s $1.2 billion Farmers Field
* Perchlorate use and quantities not reported in $27 million AEG environmental report
* AEG and city reject use of ‘greener’ fireworks used by Disney and shared royalty-free
* Recent study shows huge increase in persistent long-lasting perchlorate after fireworks shows
* Faulty EIR may open city and AEG to lawsuits
The Los Angeles City Planning Commission approved late yesterday the final environmental impact report for the $1.2 billion Farmers Field downtown on 68 acres of city-owned land. It was the second to last hurdle for developer, the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG).
“We’re going to have a state of the art green stadium,” said planning commissioner Sean Burton before putting the matter to a vote after effusive praise of planning staff for completing the massive environmental impact report. The EIR is made up of a draft report (DEIR) and a final report(FEIR) combined together. The EIR is paid for and produced by the applicant AEG.
The planning commission’s unanimous authorization will bring AEG closer to the expected approval of the city council September 28, a process fast-tracked to help AEG acquire a professional football team by early next year to begin playing in the new stadium in 2017.
City Councilmember Jan Perry sought and got the public hearing notice period for the FEIR to be just 10 days instead of 24 after yesterday’s yes-vote. Now the city council will take its final vote on the project September 28.
Strong objections to this shortened period for public comment on the project next to the Staples Center were to avail. Community activists said that lessened analysis and comment period could burden poor neighborhoods adjacent to the site. Supporters, however, say Farmers Field will bring jobs to the community, increase L.A.’s tax base and bring back pro football, the Super Bowl and even the Final Four to the second largest city in the nation.
Local media has swooned over the project and its open-roofed venue with graceful wing-like translucent outdoor concourses. Two recent Los Angeles Times’ editorials managed to praise the project while all but calling the community representatives extortionists.
“There is still, however, a coalition of community groups pushing for further environmental and other concessions, a fight they say they will pursue with the city’s elected leadership and, if that fails, in court,” Jim Newton wrote in a September 10 op-ed piece. “The coalition won’t get all it’s asking for. It shouldn’t.”
The community groups Newton dismissed as mere pests included the Los Angeles Community Action Network, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR-LA) who are part of the Play Fair Farmers Field Coalition. The non-profit organizations are not opposing the stadium, rather they are fighting to reduce the health impacts on surrounding neighborhoods from the project.
These environmental threats include diesel and gasoline fumes from the thousands of cars that may end up idling on streets around Farmers Field for lack of parking – AEG’s plan counts on 27 percent of the people coming to the stadium taking mass transit. Activists question this assumption, and contend the project will put a premium on land surrounding the site to be built out as new parking as the congestion increases the demand for more land for parking. They also say that in the rush to approve the massive construction, which will include tearing down the Los Angeles Convention Center and replacing it, environmental considerations will be missed or ignored entirely.
“The project’s developer, AEG, in return for being granted a special exemption from state environmental laws, has pledged to build the nation’s greenest football stadium that will be an engine of opportunity for working families in our city,” said LAFLA’s Staff Attorney for Community Economic Development, Zahirah Mann in a statement May 30 regarding the group’s DEIR comments on behalf of the Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition. “Our action today is an important step to holding AEG to that promise.”
Information uncovered in the last week however suggests new hurdles.
THE ROCKETS’ RED GLARE
EnviroReporter.com has discovered that the Farmers Field environmental reports fail to account accurately for all the toxins in planned fireworks displays including the oxidizer perchlorate which is common to most fireworks as a main ingredient. We have also discovered that two the four heavy metals listed in the EIR as the fireworks’ ingredients, both toxic, are listed with quantities that are erroneous. In addition, AEG maintains there are no ways to mitigate its fireworks – but lower-emission fireworks options are in fact readily available.
Fireworks will be allowed at Farmers Field every day of the year from mid-morning until nearly midnight. An AEG computer-generated video on its YouTube channel shows a rock concert with robust fireworks going off in the hazy air. Fans’ exposure to fireworks emissions, along with any attendant health effects, are not analyzed in the EIR. Without perchlorate identified as an ingredient, there is little to study let alone mitigate.
Regardless, the EIR does address the risk from fireworks not by analyzing how much perchlorate will be blown off in the stadium but by comparing the explosions to the total emissions of the project. “[P]otential emissions from fireworks would represent less than 0.1 percent of potential Project-related emissions and would occur on a limited number of days per year,” the EIR reads in response to a public comment. “However, in response to this comment, the health risk assessment has been updated to include air toxic emissions from fireworks.”
The included air toxic emissions from fireworks did not include the perchlorate which is common to most fireworks, including “green fireworks,” as well as the traditional chemical makeups for the bursts like the ones Farmers Field will be using.
In response to public comments on the DEIR submitted by LAFLA regarding the use of perchlorate and heavy metals in the fireworks, AEG countered – without explanation – by reducing the number of dedicated fireworks shows yearly by nearly 60%. But if the fireworks aren’t packing anything toxic like perchlorate, it doesn’t follow that the company would have to reduce its shows.
In regards to so-called low emissions fireworks usage, which swap out the gunpowder propellant with a compressed air launch system, the company has agreed to use such technology as an option but not a requirement. “Lower emissions fireworks shall be used to the extent feasible for ‘proximate fireworks’ where it would achieve a similar fireworks effect.” In other words, traditional fireworks can and will be used.
Depending on which way the wind is blowing, smoke from the fireworks could blow on the predominate breeze from the west into the tony confines of South Park condos which would have a view, and a nose, for the stadium cost a cool million or more. When the wind reverses in Santa Ana conditions, fireworks smoke would blow into the working class and immigrant community of the Pico Union neighborhood.
“It seems like one of the things that’s lacking is fully documenting the extent of the problem and then say whether they can or cannot mitigate the problem,” Martha Dina Argüello, executive director of PSR-LA, told EnviroReporter.com. “I think it lacking specific numbers on the [fireworks] emissions is a problem and not telling us what is actually in the fireworks is a problem.”
Perchlorate has negatively impacted at least 27 states according to the EPA, none more so than California where the chemical has been used extensively. Perchlorate is heavily regulated in California and its usage, handling and storage must be reported to the government.
“Perchlorate and its salts are used in solid propellant for rockets, missiles, and fireworks, and elsewhere (e.g., production of matches, flares, pyrotechnics, ordnance, and explosives). Their use can lead to releases of perchlorate into the environment,” says the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).