Report outlines challenging conditions in east valley

Area has contaminated water, agricultural pesticides, poverty, lack of quality housing

East valley health report

MECCA, Calif. - Commissioned by the California Institute for Rural Studies and assembled by the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, the first of its kind study titled, 'Revealing the Invisible Coachella Valley,' puts in writing what has been hiding in plain sight for years; The inequalities between the affluence of the Western Coachella Valley and the poverty of the Eastern Coachella Valley.

The poverty is accompanied by substandard living conditions, that when examined this closely, raise a number of red flags.

"I think this is a cause for concern," said Jonathan London from the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, and one of the studies' authors. "We hope that it will be the basis for community organizing and community advocacy for people to demand the full attention of government."

The report outlines limited drinking water sanitation and a high rate of agricultural pesticides in the East Valley. There is also a dearth of doctors to treat the sick.

"This data report tells us that the doctor ratio is four times lower than the federal mandate should be," said Karen Borja, a community organizer for Inland Congregations United for Change. "That's something that we hear all the time. My kid has asthma, but I don't have the means or the transportation to get him to the doctor."

While the study was just released Wednesday June 12th at the Mecca campus of College of the Desert, the data collected for the report has already been used as a tool to increase public transportation options for East Valley residents.

Borja says SunLine Transit Agency has committed to extending its bus route to North Shore beginning in September.

"We found people who needed to go to school to C.O.D. (College of the Desert)," Borja said. "We found kids that needed to go the library to Mecca just to do simple homework and simple research. They don't have that sort of infrastructure built in their homes in North Shore."

The report states that 81 percent of East Valley residents live in a Cumulative Environmental Vulnerability Action Zone (CEVA), defined as an area with a concentration of both environmental hazards and social vulnerability.

The studies' author, and community activists at Wednesday's presentation, hope the report will help to spur investment in clean technology in the East Valley.

"Being specific on drinking water. On sewer. Innovative ways to do more affordable housing," Executive Director of Pueblo Unido Community Development, Sergio Carranza said. "Those are the things that this report will help us to actually validate."

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