PUBLISHED BY MOSHOLU PRESERVATION CORPORATION

Vol. 18, No. 14 July 14 - 27, 2005



     
 

Plan for Filter Site Pollution Announced

By ANDREAS SCHNEIDER

The city has hired a new consultant and devoted $3 million to retrofit equipment working at the filtration plant site in Van Cortlandt Park with special pollution filters. However, the long awaited announcement only partially answered concerns over the health risks caused by pollution at the work zone.

The city’s new consultant, Emisstar LLC, and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will begin implementing the emission controls this month, but the process won’t be completed until November at the earliest.

The announcement responds to a June resolution passed by the Croton Facility Monitoring Committee (FMC) suggesting that the DEP sign a contract with Emisstar and consider suspending site preparation in Van Cortlandt Park. That resolution was drafted after two months of discussion over emissions control. Under the plan announced last week, construction will continue while the emissions controls are applied.

The DEP maintains that the plan was not simply a response to the FMC resolution, and that they have been in discussions with Emisstar since April. Still, many committee members felt that without heavy committee pressure on the DEP, they would still be waiting for a plan.

“It’s been like pulling teeth with them,” said Saul Scheinbach, who represents Community Board 8 on the committee.

While the committee views the announcement as a step forward, they are disturbed by the fact that the controls will not be in place until nearly a year after construction began.

“They’ve been using [unfiltered] diesel engines in our neighborhood for seven months,”  said Lyn Pyle, one of Community Board 7’s representatives. “There are so many people in the neighborhood who are seriously impacted by asthma.”

Unfiltered diesel emissions, especially those known as fine particulate matter, have been linked to asthma, cancer and respiratory diseases, according to the American Lung Association, and Bronx County is already home to the highest asthma hospitalization, death and prevalence rates in New York City.

But Gerry Kelpin, director of the DEP’s Division of Air, Noise and Policy, said the delay in creating a plan was unavoidable, and due to problems with Local Law 77, which requires all on-site vehicles at city construction projects to “utilize the best technology available for reducing the emission of harmful pollutants.” (“On-site” refers to equipment such as backhoes, drills and bulldozers.)

When Law 77 passed in 2003, the DEP was asked to create a rule defining what the words ‘best technology available’ meant. That rule, which will apply to every city construction project, has been under consideration since 2003. Environmentalists have objected to some drafts as too loose, business leaders to others as too stringent. Now, Kelpin says, the DEP has finally completed the rule, which should become effective within the next six weeks.

Due to the debate surrounding the rule, Kelpin said, DEP said it was unable to apply Law 77 to the Van Cortlandt project when work began in December. Now that the rule is in place, the DEP and Emisstar can begin comparing filtration technology to determine the best available.

There are two candidates: diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs) and diesel particulate filters (DPFs). DOCs filter out approximately 30 to 40 percent of fine particulate matter from diesel emissions, while DPFs filter between 90 percent and 95 percent.

Clearly, the DPFs qualify as “the best technology” under Law 77. However, a relatively low demand for these expensive filters limits their availability. A second problem is that they require a specific engine temperature to be effective, and many vehicles working on site never reach that temperature in a given day. The DEP will have to install diesel oxidation catalysts on all vehicles that can’t support DPFs. The current comparison will determine which vehicles receive DPFs, and which DOCs, said the project’s construction manager, Bernard Daly.

The DEP has already ordered a DPF for one piece of equipment being used on site, the Caterpillar 966 loader. The 966 is the only piece of equipment on site that has a DPF already designed for it, Kelpin and Daly said.

The committee applauded these steps.

“It’s a step forward,” said Joe Gordon, who represents Councilman Oliver Koppell on the committee, after the meeting. “It’s far better than we’ve got, but it’s not enough.”

The DEP’s plan only applies to on- site vehicles, as required by Law 77. The committee remains concerned with the pollution from the project’s fleet of on-road trucks.

Warren Kurtz, a DEP deputy commissioner, offered to meet with FMC members in August to discuss the issue of on-road trucks, which haul away rock blasted at the site.  Members of the committee say they have their work cut out for them.

“It’s a shame that an agency mandated with protecting the environment is actually polluting it,” Scheinbach said, disappointed at the lengths to which the committee has had to go to affect change. “They should be doing a project like this in the cleanest possible way.”


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