July 16, 2008

Funds Sought to Keep Monitoring Air

By Janice L. Habuda, The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Jul. 16--The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency is being asked to continue funding an air monitoring program in the Town of Tonawanda that is set to expire at the end of this month.

The EPA provided a $300,000 grant under which the state Department of Environmental Conservation installed four air quality monitoring stations in July 2007.

"The monitoring program [is] set to end about now -- in another week or so," said Daniel David, a regional DEC engineer.

Tuesday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N. Y., announced that he wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, urging the immediate release of money to continue the monitoring and the search for the sources of contamination.

Preliminary monitoring results, released in March, showed levels of benzene -- a carcinogen connected to industry and motor vehicle emissions -- that exceeded state levels at a Grand Island Boulevard monitoring site. That area, near the south Grand Island bridge, is host to gasoline distribution terminals, coke ovens, tire and sponge manufacturing and a coal-fired power plant.

Measured in micrograms per cubic meters of air, the Grand Island Boulevard location had a six-month average of more than 11; the statewide average in 2007 was 0.9.

The implications of such readings on public health couldn't be learned Tuesday, but part of the overall air quality study is to look at the effects of long-term exposure.

From the DEC's perspective, benzene level guidelines are used in issuing permits to industry. "It's not a standard, per se, but it's what we would recommend," David said.

Regarding the readings released in March, David said: "It's a level that raises some concerns but is not a violation of anything at this point. It's not necessarily a health concern."

Mary Mears, a spokeswoman for Region 2, which includes New York, said: "We agree it's an important project and . . at this point, haven't made any decisions to absolutely end the project."

The results of the year's readings will be discussed at a public meeting that likely will be held in September, the DEC engineer said.

The DEC is spending $300,000 for the second part of the two-year study. A final report will summarize the monitoring results, analyze the air pollution sources and include recommendations for reducing risk.

[email protected]


To see more of The Buffalo News, N.Y., or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.buffalonews.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.