The adoption of a few practical steps at the World Trade Center site will dramatically improve long-term air quality there, according to a new briefing paper, Rebuilding Lower Manhattan: A Clean Air Initiative, by Environmental Defense. The paper is available at www.environmentaldefense.org.
"Immediate air quality impacts from the attacks must be addressed with a speedy and thorough clean-up," said Andy Darrell, New York regional director for Environmental Defense. "However, even after the fires go out and dust is cleaned up, pollution-spewing heavy construction equipment will be working on the site and in the neighborhood for years. By taking cost-effective steps now this long term risk can be reduced."
The World Trade Center will be one of the nation's largest construction sites for years to come. Diesel particles from heavy construction vehicles, such as bulldozers, dump trucks and cranes, will add another risk to the lives of downtown residents. Over 4,000 children attend school and play in parks within blocks of the site, where heavy machinery is working around the clock.
"Air quality is essential to the revitalization of downtown's residential and business communities. Diesel particles pose the single greatest source of cancer risk from mobile sources of air pollution," said Darrell. "Nonroad engines — like construction equipment and marine vessels — emit more fine particles than the nation's passenger cars, trucks and power plants combined. Fortunately, there are practical steps that can be taken now to reduce these emissions."
Simple and inexpensive technological steps like installing low-cost oxidation catalysts on trucks, using low-sulfur fuel and reducing idling can cut emissions drastically. Similar technologies significantly reduced pollution at Sydney's preparation for the Olympic Games and Boston's "Big Dig."
"Rebuilding New York City's economic health must include rebuilding the city's environmental health. The governor and mayor should take prudent steps to improve the health of downtown residents without slowing the pace of rebuilding or significantly increasing costs," said Darrell. "We look forward to working closely with the Bloomberg and Pataki administrations to develop a plan that assures all contracts for work at the site protect public health downtown by minimizing air pollution."
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