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Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Keith Takata

2011 May 5
Superfundman

Superfundman

By Keith Takata, Deputy Regional Administrator

I’m a child of ‘50s, born and raised on a small farm in the Santa Clara Valley, long before the term Silicon Valley was coined. I graduated from a country elementary school, kindergarten through 8th grade, with 16 kids. I spent a lot of time at the Buddhist Church in San Jose’s Japanese American community.

After high school, I went to U.C. Berkeley during the years of social protest. I was heavily involved in the “Third World Strike” to establish an Ethnic Studies Department and stop the Vietnam War.

Figuring I eventually needed to get a job, I went to law school at U.C. Davis, passed the bar, and went to work for EPA’s regional Enforcement Division in San Francisco. My early career at EPA was lackluster until I switched to management, and found my calling.

I started the Superfund program here in 1981, and that’s where I’ve spent the bulk of my career. I liked the direct federal responsibility for Superfund sites and I love the action of emergency response. Last year, duty called and I am now Deputy Regional Administrator.

Every now and then there is a nice confluence of work and life. Recently I took part in the groundbreaking for a cleanup in Richmond, Calif. funded by an EPA Brownfields grant. The money is being used to clean up an area where 17 Japanese American families operated flower nurseries for over a century. After the cleanup, Richmond will develop new housing, preserve an original home and greenhouse, and create open space for the community.

The project is close to my heart because I grew up with farm families who went through some of the same experiences as Japanese Americans in Richmond. My family was interned during World War II just as they were. My father served in the military just as many of their young men did. After the war, my parents returned to San Jose to start farming again just like they did in Richmond.

This generation of Japanese Americans—my parents and grandparents–had the strength to rise above the challenges, just as I know the Japanese people will rise from the recent tragedy of earthquake and tsunami.

As I reach the end of my career, I reflect on the gains we’ve made in environmental protection, but more importantly, I think about what we’ve left undone. Every day a new threat appears, like hydrofracturing and the BP oil spill. We should have more aggressively protected the environment, but now it’s time to pass the torch to the next generation. Are you ready?

About the author: Keith Takata is the Deputy Regional Administrator for EPA Pacific Southwest Region (Region 9). Keith is a Sansei (third generation) Japanese American.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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9 Responses leave one →
  1. John Patterson permalink
    May 5, 2011

    Thank you for that you have done and sticking to your goals. I serverd US NAVY 1966-1970 but was never in the war. I was against it also. I am now president of the Broome County NY Veteran’s for Peace. Stop the wars!!!. I am also in to energy conservation. I became an energy auditor after my retirement. I live in NY where the gas companies want to hydro frac. but NYS has not allowed. I believe in energy conservation measures, practices and education is the best way if winning the war on energy. Would appreciate any support in information you have..
    John Patterson.

  2. Your Region 9 Staff permalink
    May 5, 2011

    Thanks for telling your story! Very powerful!

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    May 9, 2011

    This is a great article. to kick off Asian -Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Thank you for this.
    It also sounds very timely for a project the City of Mission Viejo has just began considering about 2 weeks ago. It sounds like once the clean up is done at the site in Richmond, that the City there would like to look at a possible Community Garden project. My City Council in Mission Viejo just passed a resolution at the Council meeting 2 weeks ago to support creating a system of community gardens, farmers’ markets, and healthier food displays at grocery store check-out lines. The Resolution passed on a unanimous vote. It has the support of the Council, City Manager, City staff, Waste Management Corporation–the company that does all the city’s trash and recycling programs, and the consultant that works with Waste Management and the City on new recycling programs. It also has the support of the city’s medical community, including the regional trauma care center hospital. And I took the idea to my condominium association homeowner’s board of directors and they are interested in working collaboratively with the City on the project. The Homeowner’s Board would like a policy that natural pest control and compost fertilizer would be used rather than man-made chemical based insecticides and fertilizers. And community gardens also seem like a great way to capture more stormwater and keep it out of the storm drain system. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. www.shaadihishaadi.com permalink
    May 9, 2011

    i am happy to I took part in the groundbreaking for a cleanup in Richmond, Calif. funded by an EPA Brownfields grant. The money is being used to clean up an area where 17 Japanese American families operated flower nurseries for over a century.

  5. Keith Takata permalink
    May 17, 2011

    Thank you! I am happy to hear that you are actively promoting energy conservation. You may be interested in an effort just starting in California: “Energy Upgrade California.” Utilities and government agencies are working with contractors across the state to develop a common audit and retrofit process. See: https://energyupgradeca.org/overview for more details.

  6. Keith Takata permalink
    May 17, 2011

    The groundbreaking was a great event–I’m glad that you joined us!

  7. Keith Takata permalink
    May 17, 2011

    Thank YOU!

  8. Keith Takata permalink
    May 17, 2011

    EPA’s Brownfields Program offers grants to cities to assess and cleanup sites that may be impacted by contamination. The next call for proposals is due out in mid August. Here’s the link to the EPA Brownfields grants programs:
    http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/grant_info/index.htm

    EPA also has a host of information on Urban Agriculture that you may find helpful:
    http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/urbanag/index.html

  9. Mika @ idollashes.org permalink
    November 24, 2011

    I took the idea to my condominium association homeowner’s board of directors and they are interested in working collaboratively with the City on the project.

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