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Revitalizing the Lower L.A. River: Voices from Maywood on Contamination, Parks, and Health Justice

Maywood residents know the local industrial sector has polluted their City and River.

The Lower L.A. River in Maywood

Pollution burdens keep people from healthy active recreation in Maywood.

A long-time active community member expressed his frustration about how nothing is done about contamination along the River.

What’s downstream, it’s not as picturesque as it is in the Northeast, you know. Vernon is not taking care of cleaning it, Maywood is not taking care of cleaning it, Bell ain’t taking care of cleaning it. It’s dirty.

One resident refuses to recreate along the River and in Maywood Riverfront Park because of contamination:

I don’t go to that park for that same reason. I mean you can tell me the floor is clean, or they cleaned up the bad soil, but I don’t trust it.

Maywood Riverfront Park was built at the Pemaco Superfund site. Some residents suspect that the land is still not safe.

Another long-time community member questioned the integrity of the park project:

But then there was concerns that site built on some things, soil, contamination, rumors. They made this park maybe to cover something up. You should check on that? I was excited, but then someone told me about that, now I feel uneasy about this. They have never been good with environmental rights.

Not only are people aware of the pollution in Maywood, they don’t believe revitalization is improving their environment.

Revitalization needs to address disproportionate pollution burdens, health vulnerabilites, and lack of parks so people can safely play along the River and picnic in their parks. Maywood is disproportionately of color and low-income. Revitalization must embody justice.

This series on Revitalizing the Lower L.A. River: Voices from Maywood is based on my Master’s Thesis, An Alternative Paradigm to Revitalization of the Lower Los Angeles River: A Maywood Story (Master’s Thesis, M.S. Regenerative Studies, Cal Poly Pomona, College of Environmental Design 2017).

Please email me at tmok [ @ ] cityprojectca.org if you have any comments or questions.

See Whitewashing the L.A. River? Displacement and Equitable Greening.