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Albany South End Neighborhood Air Quality Initiative

Air Quality Study

DEC designed the Study in response to community concerns regarding air quality in this community. The report, factsheets, and presentation provided to the community on November 6, 2019 are available as downloadable PDFs.

The Study formally ended in the fall of 2018.

Watch DEC's Press Event on our YouTube Channel.

DEC and You - Working Together for Cleaner Air

Air monitoring station located at Ezra Prentice in Albany
Environmental artwork produced by local youths on
the now-discontinued fixed monitoring station
at Ezra Prentice homes

Residents in Albany's South End 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 study to better understand the nature of these sources in their neighborhood and to address the community's concerns.

A DEC staff member working with STEP students

Odors & Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)

DEC conducted a screening assessment to look for sources of odors in the Port of Albany (Port). A variety of odorous chemicals can be released from industrial sources and standard air sampling methods are not designed to measure most of these chemicals. Additionally, there are a few chemicals that people can smell at levels below our ability to measure them. This makes pinpointing the exact cause of odors and a source for odors challenging.

One common odorous chemical related to many of the industrial activities in the Port is H2S, which has a noxious odor like "rotten eggs." Because DEC has instruments capable of measuring H2S at low levels, this chemical was used as a surrogate for investigating sources of odors. Staff measured H2S when levels were expected to be higher in the warmer months, May to November 2015, 2016 and 2017. The monitors were rotated through eight locations in the Port area. Locations were sampled multiple time and each monitoring session lasted for a full week. These locations, shown on the map, were close to potential sources of H2S and industrial activities with known odors.

Map showing the locations where air monitoring sessions took place in the Port area.


The type of monitoring instrument used was an Apptek Low Range OdaLog. The instrument's operating range is 0.010 to 2.00 parts per million (ppm). Data were collected at ten-minute intervals. The instrument is an effective screening tool for understanding sources of H2S and changes in concentrations. It is battery operated and can be placed along public roads between industrial facilities. The results were collected on a continuous basis so, if there were significant and consistent sources of H2S, they would be detected no matter when the emissions occurred - day or night. There are limitations with this instrument. Diesel exhaust and other common gases, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, can interfere (by increasing the apparent H2S concentration) with the accuracy of the H2S results. Therefore, this instrument cannot be used as an enforcement tool.


Over the course of the study, 80,000 ten-minute observations were collected. Almost all the results were below the instrument detection limit (0.010 ppm) - H2S was rarely detected. The results were at or above the detection limit for 172 observations (0.22%). As shown in Table 1, on eight separate occasions one-hour averages (calculated by averaging six consecutive ten-minute concentrations) were above DEC's one-hour standard of 0.010 ppm for H2S. All of them were consistently at location #5 near the Buckeye Terminal. The intermittent nature of the results at location #5 indicates that a source of H2S is in the localized area. Known sources of H2S clustered in this area include an asphalt plant and diesel emissions from trucks and equipment, including marine vessels which generally do not use low sulfur fuels. Since the exceedances were separated by weeks, intermittent operations of diesel engines could have been the likely source of these measurements.

Although the tool used in this screening assessment did not detect H2S very often, very low levels of H2S could have been present and some people can smell it below the instrument's detection limit.

Table 1. Hydrogen Sulfide 1-hour Averages Above NYS Standard at Location #5
Date Time 1-hour
Average (ppm)
5/23/2016 6:53 AM 0.013
7/5/2016 12:11 PM 0.028
8/18/2016 11:31 AM 0.062
9/15/2016 1:41 PM 0.012
9/26/2016 2:13 PM 0.10
9/28/2016 1:03 PM 0.030
10/13/2016 8:19 AM 0.022
10/03/2017 2:11 PM 0.018

*New York State Standard for H2S is 0.010 ppm.

Odor Hotline

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 odor issues and help identify the cause in response to complaints.

More about Odors

To learn more about odors and health effects visit these sites.

New York State Department of Health - Odors & Health (leaves DEC's website)

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry - Environmental Odors (leaves DEC's website)

Air Quality Screening

Residents living near the Port, voiced concern about potential air quality impacts due to the movement and storage of crude oil in the area. Residents asked DEC to perform a survey of air quality in the area. Read more about New York State's actions on transport of crude oil.

DEC staff met with residents in the community and designed a short-term air quality screening to address the community's concerns. DEC staff explained that the area has many sources of air contaminants, including those from the Kenwood rail yard as well as from stationary sources, industry, local space heating and from mobile sources on nearby Interstate 787 and other roadways.

Picture of an air quality sampling canister by an oil tank railroad car

How was the Air Quality Screening Conducted?

The design of the screening included 1-hour samples collected by DEC simultaneously at three locations in the Albany South End community on five separate days. Samples also were collected on six days by a community volunteer. While the DEC samples were collected when meteorological conditions favored potentially high air contaminant concentrations, the samples collected by the community volunteer targeted instances of public complaints and petroleum odor episodes. Here is a map showing the locations of the samples collected by DEC and the community volunteer.

Map showing air quality sampling locations in Albany's South End Community

All samples were analyzed by DEC's laboratory for a suite of air contaminants known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These air contaminants volatilize readily into the atmosphere and are part of the composition of crude oil and petroleum products. Additionally, the samples were analyzed for specific light-weight alkanes which have been identified as components of crude oil originating from the North Dakota and Saskatchewan Bakken formation.

The screening found no unusual results. The fact sheet, report, and presentation provided to the community on August 14, 2014 are available as downloadable PDFs.

What were the findings?

Picture of an air quality sampling canister near a playground in Albany's South End Community

The results for the VOCs are below DEC's short-term health-based air concentration values and are similar to concentrations routinely found at other locations in the State. The results for the light-weight alkanes are below DEC's health-based air concentration values. In conclusion, none of the concentrations of air contaminants are considered to be of immediate public health concern and all concentrations were similar to what is measured in other locations of the State.

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