The San Marino City Council chose not to establish a lead remediation ad hoc committee at its Apr. 28 meeting, citing recently acquired information that clarified claims of high blood lead levels in San Marino children.
The purpose of the ad hoc committee would have been to obtain blood lead level data from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health—information that the county has not formally sent to the city since the city’s public records request one month ago—and information from other agencies to address an Apr. 20 article published by Reuters News Agency.
Based on county data collected between 2011 and 2015, the Reuters article stated that 17 percent of children under the age of six who reside in the western Census tract of San Marino had elevated blood lead levels—the highest proportion of any census tract in the county.
Between San Marino’s two census tracts, a total of 14 percent of San Marino children were identified as having elevated blood lead levels, according to a Tribune calculation of county data.
Since the publication of the Reuters article, county public health officials explained on Apr. 26 during an emergency meeting of the city council that only three, or less than one percent of, San Marino children tested have elevated blood lead levels.
Mayor Richard Sun explained that he did not know the information that Dr. Cyrus Rangan, director of toxicology and environmental assessment at the county, provided on Apr. 26, when Sun proposed the ad hoc committee on Monday, Apr. 24.
Sun also noted that California American Water conducted water tests that week, which showed no detectable lead in 14 of 15 recent samples of San Marino water.
“One sample had one half of one part per billion. It’s one-thirtieth of the lead action level in one of these samples. This would be the equivalent of second in 64 years in one of 15 samples we found,” said Timothy Miller, senior director of water quality and environmental compliance for California American Water.
Miller added, “Your water is not aggressive. It’s generally not going to cause corrosion.”
“I don’t feel we need [an ad hoc committee] at this time. I believe the city has taken the proper action since this event occurred,” Sun continued.
“If [Los Angeles County] can share this data with us and anything related to health in advance, that’s something I’m trying to get here,” Sun added, calling for more cooperation and communication between San Marino and the county.
“I also feel, based on the facts, that we don’t need an ad hoc committee at this point,” said Council Member Allan Yung. He added that the city should urge the county to address the cases of elevated blood lead levels.
“When 17 percent of your sample shows a red mark, whether its just 5 micrograms [per deciliter], or 10 or six, I believe they should look at it. Even though they say they don’t look at it unless it’s 10 micrograms [per deciliter] or more,” said Yung.
Council Member Steve Talt invited Dr. Rangan and Maurice Pantoja, Environmental Health Services Manager of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, to speak at the council emergency meeting.
“I don’t think we need an ad hoc committee as much as we need to review our building codes to assure that we’re doing what the state recommends with respect to model ordinances to assure lead abatement or lead identification in remodeling,” said Talt, referring to an urgency ordinance on the agenda.
The urgency ordinance would require that contractors acquire Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, certification before being issued a City of San Marino permit or business license, according to Interim City Manager Cindy Collins. The ordinance, which was postponed to the council’s May 10 meeting, would also require that contractors provide “follow up documentation that any lead found had been properly abated.”
“We’d like to make it more comprehensive and spend a little more time developing that ordinance,” explained Collins.
“I’d be more than happy to take point on this,” Talt continued. “I think we’re doing what we should do at this point.”
“The reason that the county did not share the data with us is because none of the testing resulted in action on their part,” he said.
Talt added, “There was nothing that the county saw as actionable to give that information to San Marino. We didn’t know that when we started this process.”