Almost two dozen West Side residents raised questions Wednesday night about an ongoing air-monitoring program at the Peace Bridge.
In response to a request by the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, the state Department of Environmental Conservation in September launched a six-month air-monitoring effort and shared information about it during a meeting at the Niagara Branch Library.
Two monitoring locations were selected – upwind of the bridge plaza in the southwest corner of Front Park, and downwind at Busti Avenue and Vermont Street – to continuously measure fine particulates and black carbon from diesel trucks, which residents believe are contributing to high asthma rates and other respiratory illnesses among West Side residents.
In addition to raising concerns about the locations of the air monitors, those in attendance complained that the DEC monitoring effort is not measuring for ultra fine particulate matter.
Alfred Carlacci, an air pollution control engineer with Region 9 of the DEC, disputed that claim, explaining that measuring for black carbon is a good indicator of motor vehicle emissions.
“The more traffic there is, the higher the pollution,” Carlacci said. “It’s an issue for everyone, whether you live on the West Side, the East Side or the North Side.”
He also explained the rationale behind the placement of the monitors, but some residents insisted that other locations made more sense, including a spot near the Episcopal Church Home on Massachusetts Avenue, off Busti Avenue.
“Community officials asked us to do some monitoring on the West Side. We really didn’t want to do it because I don’t think you need a meter to tell you that you’ve got ultra fine particulates next to a Thruway or a bridge,” said Carlacci.
However, resident interjected that the monitoring was supposed to be specifically for emissions from the Peace Bridge and the toll plaza.
“This monitoring was originally put there to monitor trucks. It had nothing to with the Thruway,” said Carole Perla, a Columbus Parkway resident.
The testing of air quality around the Peace Bridge has long been sought by community advocates concerned about the potential health effects of expanding the toll plaza.
Meanwhile, the DEC will continue its air-monitoring through February. After work on the plaza expansion is completed, the DEC will conduct another six-month air-monitoring effort to determine if it has led to a reduction or increase in concentrations of fine particulate matter and black carbon.