On April 21st, 2013 the South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team (SMCAT) held a public meeting at South Mountain Community College. The meeting was a panel discussion about air quality before the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is to be release April 26, 2013 on the proposed South Mountain Freeway. The panel was made up of representatives from Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Maricopa Associations of Governments (MAG) Somona technology and Professor Hyden from Arizona State University. SMCAT is made up of residents from the surrounding Phoenix area communities that will be impacted by the freeway such as Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and from the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC). Although the representative for Gila River was Nathaniel Percharo, a pro freeway supporter who acts as spokesperson for GRIC landowners.
The meeting was “open” to the public but was not open for public comment. We were informed that we could ask questions if we fill used the yellow question cards and that at the end of the meeting they would be answered. The questions we asked were those of concerning GRIC members if the freeway were to be built on or near GRIC. Later we were told that our questions were not going to be answered at that meeting but possibly at an upcoming meeting in June.
The panel gave their presentations on air pollutions effects on health and where the Phoenix metropolitan area ranks nationally on air pollution. The panel stated that communities living next to or near freeways have a higher risk of respiratory illnesses due to the level of cancer causing agents caused by the exponential rate of traffic. The panel provided air pollutions studies from Las Vegas and Los Angeles but not in Arizona.
We felt they did not present any direct and current facts about the impact the South Mountain freeway would have on the environment, air quality, public health and the mountain itself. We felt SMCAT was not fully informed on the overall health impacts and not receptive to any of the various environmental and public health concerns the public has raised about this freeway. Questions were asked about asbestos in the air caused by traffic and the panel dismissed the question stating cars do produce a substantial amount of asbestos for them to study. Additionally, there was very little mention of GRIC. At one point GRIC was mentioned by the ASU Professor Hyden. In his presentation he referred to a study about air pollution in the Phoenix metropolitan area. A question was asked about testing sites in a study if they were actually near freeways. Some were as close as 20 feet from existing freeways and others points were too far away that he was unsure.. Hyden clearly mentioned the residential areas around the testing site in the city but not when it was in GRIC. Hyden stated “[At] 51st Avenue and Pecos Road. there’s nothing going on there”.
(Check SMCAT presentation here at this link: http://www.azdot.gov/valleyfreeways/Loop_202/South_Mountain/PDF/042213_SMCAT_Meeting_Slides.pdf)
Overall the meeting was not very informative. Multiple times I heard others who attended that their questions weren’t answered, and our questions were ignored.
With the Draft EIS coming out Friday April 26, 2013 there will be a public hearing for comments on May 21st 2013 at the Phoenix Convention Center from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Please join us in another rally outside the convention center on that day for info coming soon
-Akimel O’odham Youth Collective