Residents fear cancer, asthma risks from Metrolink train emissions

Metrolink emissions

Rail passengers arrive at the Angels Stadium Metrolink station in Anaheim. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / May 10, 2011)

A local congressman on Thursday called on Metrolink to assess the health risks of air pollution on neighborhoods surrounding the commuter railroad's central maintenance yard north of downtown Los Angeles.

At a press conference, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) made the request on behalf of residents and community groups that have long been concerned about diesel exhaust coming from the commuter system's locomotives when they are serviced.

Diesel emissions have been linked to cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses, especially in neighborhoods near major transportation corridors that are heavily traveled by trains and trucks.

"We need to give the communities the answers they deserve," said Schiff, who has been requesting a study for about a year. "A health risk assessment needs to be done now. I call on Metrolink for what I hope will be the final time."

Located next to the Los Angeles River north of the 110 Freeway, Metrolink's Central Maintenance Facility is surrounded by the neighborhoods of Elysian Valley and Cypress Park. Eight schools with almost 3,900 students are in the area.

Schiff, community activists and Los Angeles City Councilman-elect Mitch O'Farrell spoke in a residential area at the foot of Gatewood Street across from the Metrolink yard where there was a steady drone of locomotives.

"My 6-year-old daughter needs to breathe safely and so do the other 3,846 school children," said Blaire Lennane, president of Partners of Dorris Place Elementary.

Metrolink officials said they have been working on the issue with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Schiff, local elected officials and the community.

Railroad spokesman Jeff Lustgarten said Metrolink is trying to run locomotives on electric power in the yard and is in the process of buying 20 low-emission engines to begin replacing its 55 locomotives.

Lustgarten said the railroad and local air quality regulators are planning an assessment of emissions at the maintenance yard -- work that could lead to a health risk study.

Twitter: @DanielJosephWei

dan.weikel@latimes.com  

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