Tag: air pollution

Do Current Pollution Standards Protect Human Health? Clean Air Panel Will Hear Comments, Review Draft Proposal

A government panel of air pollution experts, including one from the Jefferson County Department of Health, will gather for public meetings in North Carolina later this month to hear comments and review a draft report on whether the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for carbon particles in the air are stringent enough to protect human health.

Politico Pro recently reported that the draft document, the Policy Assessment for Particulate Matter, questions whether the current standard for particulate matter in the air is adequate to protect public health. Read more.

The Heat Goes On, and So Do the Ozone Alert Days

It’s Alabama’s uncharacteristic September heat, not lack of rain, that’s caused recent air quality ozone alerts in numbers unheard of this late in the summer. That’s the word from the Jefferson County Department of Health expert Corey Masuca.

Masuca, who is the county’s air quality control engineer, is one of six experts who the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is required to depend on for recommendations on air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter, among other air pollutants, to protect public health and safety.

Ozone alerts have occurred nine days since May, according to the health department. Six of those have occurred in September. Check here for daily information on air quality in Jefferson County.

Ninety-degree Fahrenheit temperatures are expected to persist for the next several days in a “heat dome” effect that occurs only once every 10 to 30 years, according to an analysis by the joint national weather services of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Read more.

In Reversal, EPA to Add ‘Very Important’ Expertise to Air Quality Panel

More scientific help is on the way for the committee charged with providing independent advice to the federal government on whether to change its air quality standards.

Local air quality expert Corey Masuca, one of the seven members of the committee, said he “is delighted” with the decision by Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to add consultants for the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, known as CASAC.

CASAC is under a tight deadline to trudge through hundreds of new studies and advise Wheeler on potential changes in National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter and, later, for ozone. Read more.

EPA Overrides Civil Rights Complaint About JCDH, Adding to Residents’ Frustration

The Environmental Protection Agency and Jefferson County’s Department of Health have settled civil rights complaints over air permits the department awarded to coke manufacturers in north Birmingham and Tarrant in recent years. But the EPA response has added to frustration over recent environmental developments in the heavily industrial part of Jones Valley, according to residents and officials at Gasp, a clean-air nonprofit group that has been involved in antipollution efforts there for most of the past decade.

“I am totally disappointed. It’s a slap in the face,” said Jimmy Smith of the Collegeville neighborhood, one of the complainants. “It makes no sense that we taxpaying citizens cannot (experience) happiness because we live in a ZIP code (35207) where toxic chemicals and metals poison our air and ground.”

Smith said the community’s relationship with the health department is broken.

“I would trust strychnine poison to not hurt my body more than I’d trust anybody at the health department now,” he said. “They are duty bound to protect citizens’ health, but it’s my experience that, from the head of it on down, they give decisions against us and for big business.”

The “informal resolution agreement” brokered by the EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office instructs JCDH to enhance communication procedures and update nondiscrimination processes, but it does not include additional, targeted monitoring of air emissions and reduction in particulate matter and odors, which have been called for by the complainants. Read more.

Read BirminghamWatch’s earlier investigation:

County’s Major Air Polluters Concentrated in Low-Income, Minority Neighborhoods

Frustration With Health Department Intensifies as Environmental Groups Seek to Overturn ABC Coke’s Air Permit Renewal

Environmental groups say ABC Coke’s air permit renewal issued in April is flawed and are appealing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to agree that it does not comply with requirements of the federal Clean Air Act.

The groups are asking the EPA to object to the five-year renewal of the permit issued to the coke plant by the Jefferson County Health Department under Title V of the act.

The EPA has until Aug. 13 to respond to the request by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Gasp, a Birmingham-based clear-air advocacy group.

The permit renewal was hotly contested by area residents and organizations at a health department public hearing last year, largely over health concerns in the neighborhoods near the Tarrant facility. Read more.

After Recent CASAC Meeting, Former Chairman Says, “If I Were Still Working for EPA, I Would Resign”

The recent public hearing of a top air pollution advisory committee exposed faults so grave that a former chair of the group wrote an article in the Washington Post on Tuesday that was headlined, “If I Were Still Working At the EPA, I Would Resign.”

Jefferson County air pollution engineer Corey Masuca, a member of the committee, wouldn’t go that far, but on Thursday he told BirminghamWatch that he thought the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee did need greater support from the Environmental Protection Agency to properly evaluate whether current pollution standards are adequate to protect public health. Read more.

Air Pollution Panel, in Divisive Session, Asks EPA to Reverse Course and Provide Expert Help

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was asked Thursday by a key advisory committee to give it more expert help to review the hundreds of recent scientific studies on the effects of microscopic particles of soot on human mortality.

The action came as a surprise as the deeply divided Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee met Thursday to try to agree on language of a draft report. A majority of the seven-member panel, including Corey Masuco of the Jefferson County Department of Health, agreed it was not large enough and its members did not have enough expertise in epidemiology and some other fields to plow through and adequately assess the large body of research developed since its most recent report. Plus, the committee has a fast-tracked December 2020 deadline. Read more.

Drummond to Pay $775,000 Penalty to EPA, Jefferson County Health Department

Drummond Company has agreed to pay a $775,000 civil penalty as part of a settlement contained in a consent decree relating to alleged violations of environmental laws at its ABC Coke Plant in Tarrant.

The announcement was made Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice and the Jefferson County Board of Health. The consent decree, which was issued the previous day, will not be final until after a public comment period has elapsed.

The health department on Tuesday called the settlement “significant” and said it plans to use its half of the civil penalty to benefit public health in the area that was affected by the air pollution at issue. Stanton indicated that the area affected could extend beyond the city of Tarrant.

“We’ll have discussions with elected officials and others in the area to figure out what kind of projects will help the environment and the public health there,” Jonathan Stanton, environmental health services director, said. “We really want them to be involved in that process and help to guide us as to what they need.” Read more.

North Birmingham Neighborhoods ‘Have Taken a Beating,’ Work to Unite Over Pollution Concerns

The EPA Superfund cleanup and ABC Coke’s proposed air emissions permit have dominated health concerns of residents in northern Birmingham neighborhoods for months. Now officials and residents of several neighborhoods there are attempting to form a coalition to broaden the concerns to other sources of possible pollution.

The flash point of the new effort is a scrap metal processor’s business license. The license was denied by a unanimous Birmingham City Council vote in March, but the owner successfully appealed the case in Jefferson County Circuit Court, which compelled the city to grant the license.

Catherine Evans, president of the Acipco-Finley Neighborhood Association, and City Councilman John Hilliard led a meeting Saturday of about 30 people, including officers of some other neighborhood associations, to discuss how to proceed after the court decision and how to meet concerns over respiratory illnesses and other health effects possibly related to industrial pollution throughout the largely African-American and low-income area.

Several people at the meeting called attention to the negative health effects of living in the North Birmingham community.
Gwen Webb, president of Inglenook Neighborhood Association, said, “I don’t care what side of town you live on, what organization you belong to, what neighborhood you’re in, we all are affected (by polluted air). I can tell you when I start smelling it, I cannot breathe, and pollution is injustice.” Read more.

EPA Studies Find Air Pollution Is Particularly Dangerous to Vulnerable Populations Such as People of Color and Children

See, Smell Air Pollution? Document and Report It.