Albany's South End Neighborhood Air Quality Initiative
The residents in Albany's South End have expressed concern about air quality in their neighborhood. DEC takes these concerns seriously and is committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers have healthy air to breathe. This is especially true for those who live, work and play close to potential sources of pollution. The air quality near port communities like Albany's South End is impacted by trucks, trains, marine vessels, cargo handling equipment, oil and gas storage, and industrial facilities handling petroleum products. DEC partnered with the community to better understand the nature of these sources in their neighborhood and to address the community's concerns.
What has DEC Done?
DEC launched an air screening study in 2014. The screening results were not unusual and all concentrations were similar to what is measured in other locations of the State.
In 2015 and 2016, we began to sample for hydrogen sulfide to evaluate sources in the Port of Albany. The levels found were below the New York State hydrogen sulfide standard.
An additional monitor was added in Albany's South End Community in March 2015 to expand the list of pollutants regularly collected since 1973. The new monitor records levels of air toxics, including benzene, formaldehyde and other pollutants associated with mobile sources and industrial activities, including facilities that handle petroleum products.
Increased Vehicle and Facility Inspections
Improving air quality and protecting public health are the goals behind our recent crackdown on air pollution through vehicle and facility inspections in Albany's South End community.
In 2016, DEC staff inspected asphalt plants, bulk petroleum storage terminals, scrap recyclers, and a boat refinisher in the Ports of Albany and Rensselaer. A specialized camera - called a Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR camera) - was used to observe leaks or releases of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The camera is designed to look for infrared radiation absorbed from VOCs and convert the information to an image. The camera is used as a screening tool to find leaks which would otherwise go undetected. The camera did not detect any appreciable leaks or emissions of VOCs at the facilities or operations inspected.
Report nuisance odors 1-800-457-7362 toll-free 24-hour hotline.
DEC will conduct on-the-spot air quality inspections using portable air monitoring equipment to assess the odor issues and help identify the cause in response to complaints.
Intensive Air Monitoring and Sampling
Community involvement is key. Cleaner air for the South End is best achieved with community engagement. Through a $500,000 investment in an environmental improvement program for the South End, DEC is reaching out to the community to develop an intensive neighborhood monitoring plan for a community air quality study. We're moving quickly to purchase monitoring equipment to be in place and running in 2017.
The air monitoring includes an intensive network of samplers for benzene since there are a number of benzene sources in the area. The monitoring plan also includes street-by-street sampling for diesel emissions on Albany's South End to better understand people's exposures and sources. DEC will use the information we collect to evaluate air quality concerns and the steps to take to address those findings.
The community held a meeting on January 18, 2017 and DEC staff presented information (PDF 438 KB, 19 pgs) on the monitoring plan pollutants and proposed locations. A second meeting was held on March 8, 2017 and DEC staff presented information (PDF 2.3MB, 34 pgs) on the portable monitoring component of the Study. To learn more, read Albany South End Questions and Answers.
Continued Vehicle and Facility Inspections
DEC staff will continue inspections using the FLIR camera at facilities and operations in the Ports of Albany and Rensselaer in 2017. DEC will also continue inspections of diesel trucks in and around the Port of Albany for either exhaust violations or traffic law violations.
More about Albany's South End Neighborhood Air Quality Initiative:
- Albany South End Community Air Quality Screening - NYSDEC staff met with residents in the community and designed a short-term air quality survey to address the community's concerns about potential air quality impacts due to the movement and storage of crude oil in the area.
- Albany South End - Benzene Results - Results of air monitoring conducted in Albany's South End neighborhood.
- DEC's Air Toxics Monitor - Albany South End - While concentrations of air toxics in Albany's South End neighborhood are at levels considered to be good, some pollutant concentrations are above our air quality goals for all of NY's neighborhoods - including Albany's South End
- Odors & Hydrogen Sulfide - DEC conducted a screening assessment to look for sources of odors in the Port of Albany. Staff measured hydrogen sulfide in the Port in 2015 and again in 2016.
- Operation Eco-Quality in Albany South End - In 2010, DEC created the Operation ECO-Quality program to reduce air quality issues in economically disadvantaged communities through a community-centered approach.
- Albany South End Community Air Quality Study Questions and Answers - We will continue to update these questions and answers, as more are asked.