Purpose

To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chicago residents challenge freight yard expansion

http://www.newstimes.com/news/science/article/Chicago-residents-challenge-freight-yard-expansion-4814614.php

By Tammy Webber, September 14, 2013


 In this  Sept. 13, 2013, photo taken in Chicago, Prentiss Jones removes an air pollution monitor from a fence in front of a home in the city's Englewood neighborhood. Residents, along with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, will monitor diesel pollution in neighborhoods surrounding a Norfolk Southern inter-modal rail and truck yard for the next two months. The railroad wants to expand, but residents want them to take steps to lessen potential pollution. Photo: Tammy Webber

 In this Sept. 13, 2013, photo taken in Chicago, Prentiss Jones removes an air pollution monitor from a fence in front of a home in the city's Englewood neighborhood. Residents, along with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, will monitor diesel pollution in neighborhoods surrounding a Norfolk Southern inter-modal rail and truck yard for the next two months. The railroad wants to expand, but residents want them to take steps to lessen potential pollution.


CHICAGO (AP) — Residents in one of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods have complained for years about diesel fumes, noise and vibrations from a blocks-long rail yard that slices through their community. Now, plans for a massive expansion have prompted them to do something they say the city and company won't: Test the air around their homes for elevated pollution levels.

With the help of environmental advocacy groups from Chicago and California, community activists in Englewood last week installed two pollution monitors that will sample the air for two months at various points around the Norfolk Southern yard, where about a dozen freight trains and more than 1,200 semitrucks load and unload every day —all powered by diesel fuel and idling constantly while large metal freight containers are transferred from one to the other.

The 140-acre yard handles more than 480,000 containers a year, but the company wants to expand it by about 85 acres to accommodate another 800 diesel trucks a day, and is buying vacant lots and homes from the city and private owners.

Residents say the plan, backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, will simply add to the neighborhood's pollution, which a nearby interstate and another rail yard also contribute to, and cause elevated levels of asthma and other health problems.

"I think the railroad has completely not acknowledged the welfare of the neighborhood," said 74-year-old Julian McClendon, who lives about 1,000 feet from a railroad embankment — where he says trains often sit and idle while waiting to get into the yard — and a block from where the expanded yard would end.

"I hear the train noise and I smell the pollution on a regular basis (especially) at night and in the early morning hours," said McClendon, who has lived in Englewood for more than 50 years and wants the railroad to conduct an environmental impact study.

A spokesman from Norfolk Southern did not return phone or email messages Friday.

Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner for Chicago's Department of Housing and Economic Development, said Friday that federal officials regulate train and truck pollution, although the city "continues to work with Norfolk Southern, the community and environmental groups to adequately address all the concerns related to the expansion, including its economic impact, infrastructure needs and the environment." Emanuel eliminated the city's Environment Department.

Diesel emissions include harmful chemicals and microscopic particles that can lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing respiratory and heart problems. The issue of pollution from locomotives has been raised across the country, as rail traffic increases and yards expand.
In Chicago, the problem can be particularly acute because the nation's largest freight lines pass through the city, often creating a bottleneck that can leave trains idling for days.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center, a Chicago advocacy group working with the residents, released a study in July that predicted the planned Norfolk-Southern expansion would increase diesel pollution several blocks from the site, including at levels exceeding federal safety limits. But the company, which plans to use cleaner-running locomotives, insists that the expansion would not increase pollution and disputed the group's analysis, said Faith Bugel, a senior attorney at the ELPC.
She believes monitoring will demonstrate the problem with hard data. The monitors were provided by the Richmond, Calif.-based group Global Community Monitor.

Bugel said ELPC wants the company to upgrade all freight-handling equipment — including tractors, cranes and forklifts — or install pollution filters on them, and wants the city to reduce traffic congestion from the semitrucks that sometimes queue on local roadways waiting to get into the yard.
She also said that complying with existing environmental laws isn't enough in communities where polluting activity is concentrated or comes from numerous sources, "especially when we're documenting pollution at a level that will be harmful."

"The heart of the problem is that the laws we have ... are insufficient," she said. "We're finding out on a daily basis that diesel pollution is much more harmful than was thought."