Peace Bridge air quality meets federal standards, DEC says

Sep 21, 2016

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is out with the results of its second air quality study for the West Side Buffalo neighborhoods around the Peace Bridge. It says the air quality is consistent with similarly sized metro areas with high traffic. However, the DEC is calling for improved emission standards to protect public health and the environment.

Credit WBFO News file photo

The DEC released its results during a public meeting Tuesday night at the Porter Niagara Library, saying the study was developed in response to community concerns that its previous six-month study, in 2012, did not monitor air pollutants for a full year. However, Kathy Mecca, a long-time resident of Columbus Parkway and President of the Niagara Gateway Columbus Park Association, said actions would speak louder than words.

"We make comments and our opinions just don't count. They never have any weight in any outcome," Mecca said. "My opinion is that it's government's responsibility to make sure that what they're doing is safe before they do it, not after they do it and certainly not eight years from now."

The DEC said two air monitoring sites were established in August 2014 and air monitoring - including ultrafine particles, for which there are no air quality standards - was conducted 24 hours a day through September 2015. One close to and downwind of the Peace Bridge Complex on Busti Avenue found higher exposures to vehicle emissions.

"The analysis of 1-year monitoring data included four MSATS (mobile source air toxics): acetaldehyde, 1,3-butadiene, benzene and formaldehyde," the DEC said in its summary. "All of these air toxics were found to be greater than their respective health-based annual air guideline concentrations (AGCs), however, these four air toxics are consistently found above the AGCs in all locations of the State - event rural State park locations."

DEC research scientist Dirk Felton said the longer study found seasonal differences that had not been expected, including higher levels of ultrafine particles, which are known to disperse quickly in warm temperatures. Felton said he could find only one other winter study of ultrafine particles, conducted in Idaho, so the data will be especially useful.

Felton said diesel truck emissions also are still a concern. The DEC says emissions are higher in the summer and correspond with truck crossings. It is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to lower emissions standards for diesel trucks and evaluate new standards for ultrafine particles - for which there currently are no air quality standards.

The second monitoring site was established at Public School 198 on 14th Street where emissions were determined "negligible." The DEC said four one-hour samples also were collected by community members and were all found to be "below guidelines concentrations."

The DEC said the air quality around the Peace Bridge was evaluated as changes in the bridge plaza and access to the I-190 are planned. Mecca says the plans to move bridge traffic farther away from her neighborhood only "transfers the burden" to another neighborhood.