Levels of some pollutants linked to diesel fuel are high near the Peace Bridge, but they are no higher than those in other parts of the state, New York State officials told about 40 residents of Buffalo’s West Side on Tuesday night.
The long-awaited study of air quality in the community surrounding the bridge found that fine particulate matter meets federal standards but that some air toxics are higher than state guideline concentrations.
But the state guidelines are used for permit purposes, and are not health standards, said Randi Walker, a research scientist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Air.
“We didn’t really find that this area was unusual in terms of air toxics,” she said.
Community members had reacted with anger three years ago when the DEC said a study found emissions from the Peace Bridge Plaza were not significantly affecting air quality. That six-month study in 2012 and 2013 focused on particulate matter and black carbon.
Neighbors said the study did not examine the busiest times of year for the bridge.
The latest study covered a longer period of time, from September 2014 through September 2015, and monitored air at two locations in the West Side neighborhood.
One air-monitoring site was located downwind and close to the Peace Bridge Complex on Busti Avenue and Rhode Island Street to provide information on impacts from bridge operations. The other site was located about 1,094 yards, or six-tenths of a mile, east of the bridge complex at the International Preparatory School (the former Grover Cleveland High School) to provide information on levels of air pollutants in an urban environment away from the influence of the bridge complex and surrounding highways.
The study was designed in collaboration with the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York and the Columbus Park Neighborhood Association. It measured black carbon, carbonyls, fine particulate matter, ultra fine particulate matter and volatile organic compounds.
The analysis found concentrations of fine particulate matter were highest in the winter and below the daily and annual federal standard for both monitoring sites.
Residents said they were grateful for the amount of information in the study, which monitored the air 24 hours a day. But they are concerned about the health effects of the pollution, and the possibility that the Peace Bridge traffic will move closer to their neighborhoods.
“How long does it take our government to reach out?” said Kathleen Mecca, president of the Columbus Park Association, a Peace Bridge-area group.
Natasha Soto of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York said she was struck by how little information there is about effects on human health. The DEC also measured for pollutants for which there are no federal air-quality standards, and which are associated with diesel vehicle emissions.
The highest counts occurred on weekdays during the winter. The counts for black carbon concentrations and ultra fine particles were lower than other air quality monitors in other urban centers in the state, including Rochester and one 20 yards from the Thruway in Cheektowaga, according to the DEC study.
Truck traffic along the Niagara Thruway and the Peace Bridge is fairly steady throughout the year, said Dirk Felton, a research scientist for the DEC Division of Air.
Elizabeth Martina of Columbus Park said the information seemed similar to previous studies.
“We know what pollutants were there,” she said.
“While these findings are encouraging, DEC continues to call on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to improve emission standards for diesel trucks to better protect public health and the environment of Buffalo’s West Side and across the nation,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a news release.