L.A. County Supervisors Push for More Information on Delta Fuel Dump

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted today to push the Federal Aviation Administration to expedite its investigation of a Delta jetliner's release of nearly 10,000 pounds of fuel over Cudahy, South Gate and Pico Rivera in January.

Supervisor Hilda Solis said the county needs answers for affected communities.

``From day one, I have pressed for a thorough investigation to determine what caused this incident, and now over six weeks later, affected residents still do not have any answers as to what went wrong or any reassurances from Delta that this will not happen again,'' Solis said. ``This is unacceptable.''

Delta issued a statement the same day to say that it was ``working with local community leaders to listen to the needs of the community and determine other ways to support those affected. Taking care of the communities we serve is one of our highest values, and we will work together to do that.''

No one was hospitalized, but dozens of students and adults were treated for skin irritation and respiratory issues resulting from the falling fuel.

Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said some residents were concerned about potential long-term health effects. ``The community remains very concerned ... and we agree with them that there is reason for concern,'' Ferrer told the board.

Ferrer said the lack of information from Delta about the composition of the fuel and the extent of the exposure left county health care workers unable to respond appropriately.

``The county needs Delta to provide the requested information,'' she said.

Delta cited the FAA investigation as the reason for delay, according to Ferrer.

At least two lawsuits have been filed against the airline by teachers and students, some of whom allege severe emotional distress related to the incident. At least one suit alleges that Delta was negligent and could have avoided the problem.

Delta Flight 89 -- a Boeing 777 -- left LAX at 11:15 a.m. Jan. 14 bound for Shanghai with 181 people on board. According to Delta, the plane ``experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return to LAX. The aircraft landed safely after a release of fuel, which was required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight.''

First responders reported treating 67 patients -- some children and some adults -- at one preschool, one high school and five elementary schools. None were hospitalized, according to authorities.

The FAA said in a statement issued the day after the fuel dump that Delta had failed to notify air traffic control of the need to jettison fuel and did not dump it at an optimal altitude or location, as protocol dictates that fuel be released over designated unpopulated areas and not over residential areas.

Solis directed county employees to work with Delta and the community to coordinate a ``benefits package'' that will mitigate the harm suffered. The board will also ask the FAA to hold public meetings and answer residents' questions.

``These communities have suffered an environmental injustice and their voices deserve to be heard,'' Solis said. ``Delta needs to step up and work closely with the community to help facilitate the healing process.''

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