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August 18, 2008

Measured Improvement? Times analysis of carbon monoxide may exceed AY FEIS estimates

Atlantic Yards Report

Naturally, the Atlantic Yards Evironmental Impact Statement states that "no significant adverse impacts on air quality are predicted during the construction of the proposed project." However, a curious graphic published this weekend in the NY Times, comparing the carbon monoxide levels along the marathon routes in Beijing and New York City, indicates reason for concern for Brooklynites who live, work and play around Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project footprint.

Would you want to run a marathon around the Atlantic Yards footprint?

An informational graphic (click to enlarge) in the New York Times Sports section Saturday suggested some curious details about the Atlantic Yards footprint and nearby parts of central Brooklyn: the area is experiencing high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) emissions, close to the levels that prompted Beijing officials to take drastic pre-marathon measures.

The main point of the graphic is to compare the air quality along the Olympic marathon route in Beijing before alternate-day driving restrictions were imposed with the air quality after such limitations were imposed.

The newspaper also included a graphic of the New York City Marathon route, which showed a "spike" in the area near Lafayette and Bedford avenues, where the route turns north, but also some significant increases around the intersection of Fourth, Flatbush, and Atlantic avenues, the western segment of the AY footprint.

The newspaper blames "construction machinery" for the increase, at least in the area closer to Bedford Avenue. There's also a significant amount of construction equipment operating in and around the footprint, as with the excavator pictured on Dean Street near Sixth Avenue.

So, as I describe below, there's an argument for measuring carbon monoxide even though it's not part of the Community Air Monitoring Plan for the construction phase of the project.

The Times graphic suggests that the area around Fourth, Flatbush, and Atlantic avenues experiences well over 5 ppm (parts per million), and possibly as large as 10 ppm, or even larger. Still, without backing data, it's not easy to eyeball the graphic and determine a total.

By contrast, Chapter 17 (Construction Impacts) of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) estimates that the combination of construction equipment and traffic would not raise CO above the 9 ppm threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency in its National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Note that the EPA states that the 9 ppm level should not be exceeded more than once per year. (The maximum permitted one-hour concentration is 35 ppm.) Also note that that level is an 8-hour average, and the Times didn't state whether its totals represent such an average or simply the average of one-time readings along the route.

The rest of the article delves into the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement, where one thing is for sure, if Bruce Ratner's controversial project is built, we can expect even higher carbon monoxide emissions. No worries, the "Community Air Monitoring Plan" doesn't include carbon monoxide, so what you don't know can't hurt you.

Posted by lumi at August 18, 2008 5:13 AM