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Jordan High School

Background

South Coast AQMD has an ongoing investigation near Jordan High School in the Watts community of Los Angeles. In June 2020, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) filed a lawsuit against S&W Atlas Iron & Metal Co. (Atlas), which is a scrap metal recycling yard located adjacent to the high school. Part of the lawsuit alleges that fine metallic dust and other airborne emissions from Atlas were impacting the school’s campus. Once South Coast AQMD learned of the allegations in the lawsuit, an investigation to identify potential sources in the area began.

Historically, the area to the north of both the high school and Atlas – often referred to as Jordan Downs, based on the nearby public housing complex of the same name – was used for steel manufacturing activities and operations relating to truck storage and repair. In 2014, the California Department of Toxics Substances Control (DTSC) identified multiple contaminants and led a largescale cleanup and redevelopment of that adjacent property. Additional information on South Coast AQMD’s involvement with the Jordan Downs Redevelopment Project can be found here. The area is also impacted by the Alameda Corridor, which refers to Alameda Street to the east that is heavily traveled by diesel trucks and other mobile sources of air pollution. Additionally, South Coast AQMD is evaluating a number of small to medium-sized industrial facilities to the south of Atlas (on Alameda and 103rd Streets) that have been identified as potential emission sources in the area. 

Public Complaints

This agency has received only a handful of public complaints against Atlas. Four odor and dust complaints were received between June 2017 to June 2020; and no complaints were received during the 10-year period prior to June 2017. Five odor complaints were received from June 2020 through March 2021. Inspectors responded to all of the complaints but were unable to confirm dust or odors with complainants or otherwise identify any violation that could result in enforcement action.

South Coast AQMD encourages members of the public who experience air quality issues, such as odors, smoke, or dust, to call our complaint hotline at 1-800-CUT SMOG (1-800-288-7664) or use the agency’s online system to enter a web complaint. We attempt to respond to all public complaints submitted. More guidance and helpful tips when calling the complaint hotline can be found at: www.aqmd.gov/home/air-quality/complaints.

Ongoing Investigation

After the filing of the LAUSD lawsuit, South Coast AQMD immediately initiated an investigation. Enforcement teams were dispatched to Atlas and conducted both on-site inspections and surveillance activities in the surrounding area. The investigation found that Atlas does not operate any equipment requiring a South Coast AQMD permit, and that the facility is not subject to any existing metals rules. The primary rules that do govern the facility are Rule 402 – Public Nuisance and Rule 403 – Fugitive Dust. No violations of air quality rules or regulations, however, have been identified at Atlas to date.

Since June 2020, more than 20 field operations, including inspections, have been conducted in connection with Atlas. South Coast AQMD also maintains a regular presence at, and in the vicinity of, Jordan High School (located at 2265 E. 103rd St. in Los Angeles) and Atlas (10019 S. Alameda St.), which includes nearby sites such as Southeast Middle School (2560 Tweedy Blvd. in South Gate). See Figure 2.

Jordan High School Map
Figure 2.  Google Map of Investigation Area

A week-long sampling effort was conducted in August 2020 using glass deposition plates at six locations, including near Atlas and on-campus at Southeast Middle School. Glass plate sampling did not identify any immediate public health or safety concerns, nor was a pattern identified among sampling locations that would specify any emission source(s). Based on the evaluation of the metallic particles collected and other factors, the investigation was expanded to include other facilities along Alameda Street, construction sites west of Jordan High School, and other areas of interest to the north and south of the school. The report from this sampling effort can be found here.

In addition to the above efforts, four field screenings using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) handheld monitor were conducted in September, October, November, and December of 2020. The data obtained using the XRF monitor is primarily qualitative as opposed to quantitative in nature and does not necessarily equate to individual exposures. The results did not indicate any immediate public health or safety concerns. These findings did confirm the existence of lead and other metals in the areas surrounding Jordan High School and prompted further field operations, including approximately 36 on-site inspections of other local jobsites and facilities. A map showing these results, along with the underlying data, can be found here.

Next Steps

This investigation is ongoing. We will continue to respond to air quality complaints and will continue to evaluate potential sources of emissions that may be impacting this community.

South Coast AQMD is working closely with other agencies, including, DTSC, the California Attorney General’s Office, and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. We remain committed to doing everything within our authority to help protect the students, parents, and school staff at Jordan High School, and all those who reside and work in the surrounding areas.

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South Coast Air Quality Management District

21865 Copley Dr, Diamond Bar, CA 91765

909-396-2000

 

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