The 11-acre former PureGro site located at 1025 River Drive in northeast Brawley was first confirmed to be contaminated with pesticides and hazardous wastes by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control in 2003, and since then, getting the DTSC to fully remediate the site to the satisfaction of the community has been difficult. In recent year, much of the heavy lifting of a soil testing program around the site and a health study has been initiated by community-based organizations with help from a different state agency. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO
BRAWLEY — In response to years of concerns over chemical exposures and possible health effects tied to the toxic PureGro site and other potentially toxic sources on the east side, the Brawley Health ACTION Environmental Study is getting underway, according to a press release from Comite Civico del Valle, a longtime Brawley-based community organization.
The study, which began in spring 2021 and ends in fall 2023, aims to engage residents living near these sources to document community concerns and oral histories, design and conduct a health assessment and environmental monitoring, report results back to the broader community, share concerning findings with the proper agencies, and conduct activities that empower the community to protect their own health.
This study is funded by the California Air Resources Board and their supplemental environmental projects, bringing different partners with different expertise to undertake the goals of the study. Comite Civico del Valle, Universidad Popular, the Public Health Institute, and Tracking California will engage with community members to ensure community leadership and community participation are included throughout the project.
The state Department of Toxic Substances Control, which is tasked with mitigating to environmental impacts of the PureGro site, has not conducted any exposure or health assessments to determine if the community has been exposed to toxic chemicals or if any of these have shifted to their homes during the decades of this site’s existence.
“After long years of advocacy and community involvement, and despite the inaction of the pertinent agencies, (it) is encouraging to see the California Air Resources Board stepping up to the plate bringing meaningful collaborations to address the environmental health concerns that the community has been struggling for decades,” said Luis Olmedo, executive director of Comite Civico del Valle.
“The study will not only help to find the answers to the community’s concerns, but more importantly it will involve community members to participate throughout the process and activities carried by the project, encouraging community residents to take action in their own health.”
Specific plan activities and strategies will be decided based on the recommendations made by a community advisory group, a larger resident group, and Comite Civico del Valle.
After the planning is completed, then the study will conduct a health assessment to better understand the community’s health status and their concerns.
Additionally, there will be an environmental sampling of the surrounding communities to better understand any potential community exposure. This may include testing the soil, water, or air. As planned, the study results will be shared with the community and engage them to develop and implement an action plan.