Port of Albany air study called irresponsible whitewash

Source: The Times Union

Port air study hit

Critic, calling DEC report a “whitewash,” faults benzene review
Updated 8:32 pm, Tuesday, September 30, 2014
A report submitted Tuesday to state regulators labels as “irresponsible” their conclusion that airborne chemical concentrations in Albany’s South End weren’t a health concern.
The report by David O. Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the State University of New York at Albany, said that air samples in 20 of 21 cases showed elevated levels of benzene, a known human carcinogen.
The air samples were collected by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in May. The study came after neighborhood residents complained of strong odors from the Port of Albany, where two major oil terminals, operated by Global Partners and Buckeye Partners, are located. Some complained of headaches, nosebleeds and other health problems.
Before it began, the planned study drew criticism from an environmental organization that said it was too limited and that some chemical compounds wouldn’t even be collected.
Chris Amato, a lawyer for Earthjustice and former DEC commissioner for natural resources from 2007 to 2011, wrote a letter to Judith Enck, the regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking the EPA to support a more comprehensive study.
After results were released to neighborhood residents in August, a DEC research scientist cautioned that the tests conducted in May were short-term tests and they shouldn’t draw conclusions about long-term exposure based on the results of those tests.
Carpenter, meanwhile, called the use of short-term benzene standards “totally inappropriate” because the short-term nature of exposure that they assume “are always much higher than standards for longer-term exposure … Indeed, use of the short-term standard is likely to vastly underestimate the health risk to individuals that live or work in the area and therefore spend considerable amounts of time in the South End.”
And while some of the benzene present in the air may come from sources other than the Global Partners terminal at the Port of Albany, “the residents of the South End should be protected from exposure to excess benzene, regardless of the source,” Carpenter wrote.
Amato, calling the DEC analysis of its air sampling results “a whitewash,” said Carpenter’s report “underscores the need for a full environmental review of crude oil operations at the Port of Albany.”
In a statement issued early Tuesday evening, a DEC spokesman said that “although our screening assessment is complete, we are aware of the community concerns regarding odors and will continue to address this issue.
“In addition, DEC is continuing to follow-up with screening of other air pollutants, formaldehyde and hydrogen sulfide, in the area and will report the results to the community when our assessment is complete.”
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