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GALENA PARK: Air quality report cites health dangers

belinda vasquez - st john
Belinda Vasquez-St. John places monitors at Galena Park City Hall.

GALENA PARK – Belinda Vasquez-St. John spoke to the city council at their last meeting on July 15, and summarized a report her organization, Air Alliance Houston, had just issued on air quality issues in Galena Park. A summary of the report follows:

“Galena Park, Texas is an environmental justice community of some 10,000 residents on the Houston Ship Channel. The community is surrounded by the ship channel; industry, particularly that associated with Houston petrochemical industry; rail lines; and high traffic roadways, including I-10 to the north and 610 to the west.

Air Alliance Houston has been active in Galena Park for several years. It is a community in which concerns about pollution and public health run high. However, a lack of resources and knowledge leads to very little public engagement on issues that impact environmental quality and health. Although citizens are worried about their health, there is little sense that they can personally affect change.

Air Alliance Houston and Global Community Monitor conducted a community health impact survey, and community mapping workshop, and a community air monitoring project. Air monitoring was conducted over the course of a year for fine particulate matter and elemental carbon, a surrogate for diesel pollution. The results of the yearlong community air monitoring project form the basis of this report. An independent report was produced by a graduate student at the Rice University Department of Statistics.

Diesel pollution presents an unacceptable health risk in Galena Park. Cancer risk due to diesel pollution exposure may exceed 1 in 10,000. Fine particulate matter pollution may exceed federal health standards as well.

Galena Park must act now to reduce diesel and particulate matter pollution in order to protect its residents’ health. We recommend aggressive steps to limit diesel pollution by banning older, dirty trucks and diverting trucks from Galena Park roads. We also recommend further testing to determine the extent of air pollution in Galena Park, and its impacts.

Galena Park recently elected a new mayor and city council. This new administration has an opportunity to take a fresh look at the pollution challenges their residents face. It is our hope that Galena Park will work with the Port of Houston Authority, Harris County, and the City of Houston to address these challenges and protect the health of the citizens of Galena Park, Texas.”

In an accompanying handout, Air Alliance had the following recommendations to reduce pollution:

1. Truck Traffic should be removed from Clinton Drive.

2. The Port of Houston should provide trucks with appropriate Waiting Areas.

3. Increase Planting specific trees and vegetation in areas between the Port and the population.

4. Paving and using roads within the Port rather than Clinton Drive for major truck traffic.

5. Reducing truck and ship emission idling by providing power through electrification.

The monitoring activity on which the report is based, was conducted for one year in 2012, according to Vasquez-St. John.

Monitors were placed on the Galena Manor Recreation Building, Galena Park Resource and Training Center, Galena Park Police Department, City Hall, and the Galena Park ISD Early Head Start building.

Your comments and thoughts on this subject are welcome. Please send a Letter to the Editor, 5906 Star Lane, Houston, TX 77057 or email to northchannelstar@gmail.com.

You may also want to attend the EPA meeting on August 5 at the Baggett Community Center, to express your views or share your environmental health experiences with the government representatives that will be at the meeting. See details on Page 1.