My name is Shelby Rodriguez. For the past two years I’ve been the community organizer for The No More Tar Roofs Campaign near Sacramento, California. After a move forced by the economy, my family and I moved to a rental home community in June of 2008 called The Arbors at Antelope owned by The Carmel Partners.
The community was beginning its second year of a three year re-roofing project using asphalt roofing tar. Immediately, my family and I began to suffer from the symptoms of asphalt fume exposure: nose sores, coughing fits, twitching lungs and then an asthma diagnosis for myself.
When my daughter started to show signs of the serious complication I had developed, I began a battle that would include help from the US EPA’s TASC project, Senator Darrell Steinberg’s office, and The Sacramento Air Quality District (AQMD). I found neighbors who were having similar symptoms but many were afraid to speak up.
Despite threats of eviction, and a Cease and Desist letter from the lawyers of the Carmel Partners, my husband and I, along with other volunteers, placed flyers on every single door here at The Arbors to tell them about the public meeting contracted by the US EPA. The night of the meeting, I stood up, alone, and asked for a safer roofing method.
I was able to get the project halted by invoking the public nuisance law and was finally successful in getting the owners to switch to an eco-friendly roofing alternative called TPO.
My story went public when my husband nominated me for the 2009 Mom on a Mission Award by Healthy Child Healthy World. I was named the winner of the award at a star-studded Gala in Beverly Hills. The next day my story “Saving neighbors from harmful fumes” was published in “People” Magazine where I was called the Erin Brockovich of Antelope; and then I was name a Remarkable Woman by “Lifetime” Television.
After all of this, the property manager sent out a notice in mid March of 2010 stating that they were switching back to the asphalt roofing tar rather than using the cool roof system (despite a strong warning by AQMD that they not use tar on our roofs).
In April of 2010, The Carmel Partners decided to halt the re-roofing project after myself, my husband, and other volunteers notified residents about “What The Arbors Didn’t Tell You About Roofing Tar”. The people who live here fought back and proved that there is strength in numbers. I am so proud of my community for sticking up for themselves.
Especially since, according to the Director of the UCFS Environmental Health Specialty Units, Mark Miller, MD, MPH “
Whatever ill health effects one might expect would more than likely be disproportionately shouldered by the children of the community. Since there are established, safer, and cost effective roofing alternatives currently in common use, it seems unwise to continue with a large scale asphalt project that exposes the community to a long term exposure to these fumes.”