Diesel pollution studied in Lents

Read this, and learn why an outer East Portland pilot study has implications for everyone who lives – and breathes – in our neighborhoods …

People interested in clean air arrive at the Lents Team Center to learn more about a study conducted in their neighborhood regarding diesel pollution.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

During a break from the winter snow and ice, neighbors and interested people came to the Lents Team Center on the sunny afternoon of January 22 to learn of a report called “Diesel in Our Air: Community Sampling Project”.

It was a collaboration of Livable Lents/Green Lents, ROSE Community Development’s Lents Youth Initiative, and the Oregon Environmental Council.

Oregon Environmental Counsel Health Outreach Director Jen Coleman says she doesn’t blame the I-205 Freeway for diesel pollution; but she does point a finger at old diesel engines that pump out hazardous exhaust.

As guests checked in, Oregon Environmental Counsel Health Outreach Director Jen Coleman summarized the project for East Portland News.

“This is a project in which we’re taking a snapshot of the diesel pollution in our air, in our neighborhoods,” Coleman began.

Nowadays, one typically doesn’t see thick clouds of black smoke belching out of large truck exhaust stacks, she said. “Although it isn’t necessarily visible, the exhaust may be at levels that affect our health. And, it’s the smallest, submicroscopic particles, the ones that get really deep into the lungs, that are really dangerous,” Coleman noted.

Attendees settle in, ready for the presentation, and a discussion about diesel pollution.

The project came about when those concerned about air quality looked at a 2015-released pollution “modeling study” – based on 2011 data, not actually monitoring – that showed some reason to be concerned, Coleman said.

“We wanted to put some faces and names to the experience of diesel pollution, as a way to persuade people to fight for solutions,” elucidated Coleman. We really want to the community to be involved in the solutions, so they could decide what is best for them.”

To better understand diesel pollution in their lives, community members conducted an air sampling project with three phases:

Locate – Identify places where diesel engines are likely to be used and where community members spend time outdoors.
Observe – Spend time in those spaces making observations about what can be seen, smelled heard and felt.
Measure – The fine black carbon particles in the air are scientifically measured.

Using a hand-held micro-aethalometer, such as this one makes it easy to take many air quality “snapshots” at several different locations.

The only way to measure theses particles is using a device called a micro-aethalometer, explained Coleman “It’s a handheld device, and not nearly as sophisticated as the full-size units that might be used by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, but it gives a ‘snapshot’ of the air quality where someone commutes every day, is in a playground near a school, or walking in the park.”

The upshot is that they found diesel pollution. “There is reason to be concerned,” Coleman said. “We are looking at levels that far exceed the benchmarks that Oregon has set, here in an area with people who are particularly vulnerable – including lower income residents, people of color, and health affected people.”

Showing charts of three locations monitored is Green Lents Program Director Adam Brunelle.

Hosting the meeting was Green Lents Program Director Adam Brunelle who said that the topic of air pollution has come up in their “Livable Lents – Lents Strong Action Plan” outreach program. [Read about their October meeting: CLICK HERE.]

“It’s been identified as a concern,” Brunelle said. “And, it’s the health consequences from diesel pollution that are of interest.

“The question ultimately is how we can keep the necessary transportation flowing while not exposing people to diesel pollution,” Brunelle said. “Other states have shown that they can reduce diesel pollution by using filters in the trucks, for example.”

This map, provided by Green Lents, shows many of the testing locations near the Lents Green Ring.

This study folds into their “Lents Green Ring” walking and bicycling area project, where they’re trying to improve the connectivity of the area, and the ecological environment, he noted.

“Also, Lents neighbors are asking how they can get involved in activities that are relevant to them, especially for marginalized communities, such as those that may not speak English,” Brunelle said. “It’s a potential pathway for people to take action for something that is really an environmental justice issue.”

The program begins, as neighbors and interested people learn more about diesel exhaust air pollution in the Lents neighborhood.

Take a look at the project’s information page online: CLICK HERE. Scroll down, and you’ll find a link to download the entire report.

To learn more about Livable Lents, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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