NYU’s diesel fuel will kill our kids

> From: Ann Warner Arlen
> Date: June 29, 2012 3:45:35 AM EDT
> To: Mark S. Weprin
> Cc: Ann Warner Arlen
> Subject: NYU Core
> Dear Council Member Weprin,
> Here is my testimony for a little later this morning, applying the Precautionary Principle to NYU’s Core.
> Thank you,
> Ann Warner Arlen
> Public Member of the Environment, Public Safety and Public Health Committee, Community Board #2, Manhattan
> (Chair of the Committee from 1989 to 2003).


It is widely recognized that the 19-year construction phase of NYU’s Core plan poses health risks to the surrounding populace, particularly to the respiratory systems of developing children. Thus we need to question how it is that the Construction section of NYU’s Core DEIS can state that “The proposed project would not result in significant adverse impacts with respect to air quality” [Section 20, p. 3].

The answer is simple and shameful: Section 20, the Construction section, does not cover the type of nonroad construction vehicles required by major construction projects such as NYU’s, and the inability of older nonroad engines to burn Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel.

EPA’s document (“Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule – Facts and Figures”) on EPA’s nonroad Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel rule, states: ‘When the fleet of older nonroad engines has fully turned over by 2030 (emphasis mine), this rule will annually prevent: Premature deaths – 12,000; Hospitalizations – 8,900; Heart attacks – 15,000; Children’s asthma-related emergency room visits – 6,000; Cases of respiratory problems in children – 280,000; Days that adults have to restrict activity because of their respiratory systems – 5.8 million.’ Because these older nonroad engines cannot burn ULSD and are costly to replace, they have been ‘grandfathered in’ by EPA, and they know the health cost.,

To be sure that Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel is used in all construction NYU undertakes is to require that new nonroad engines be a condition of all of NYU’s excavation and construction contracts and subcontracts without exception. By claiming ‘no significant adverse impacts’ from its construction, NYU has signaled that it does not intend to take this key health-based precaution.

How might such a lack of precaution work out for children growing up within NYU’s core area for some or all of 19 years of maturation?

One answer, originally published in The Lancet, is found in the largest and longest study ever done (3,500 children studied for 13 years) on children living near a significant source of diesel fine particle air pollution (500 feet from a highway). These children had significant impairment in their lung development. [Freeway Air Damages Young Lungs; L.A.Times 1-26-07 –
How vulnerable is the population within the NYU Core area to the adverse impacts of 19 years of construction? The work of Dr. Anthony Szema provides us with one answer. Dr. Szema had been treating children for asthma prior to 9/11, so there was a basis for comparison of the incidence of asthma attacks, pre- and post-9/11, in the same patients. He found that proximity of residence to the World Trade Center correlated with the severity of asthma (number of attacks), a dose-response ratio that held from WTC out to a distance of 5 miles. [American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology; jaai 2003.] The NYU Core is approximately 1 mile out from Ground Zero. That puts children in the Greenwich Village/NYU area among the most affected in the Szema study, therefore among the most sensitive to adverse air quality impacts.

Although developing children are the focus of this testimony, NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation data show that many adults from the NYU Core area have been treated for asthma and other 9/11 respiratory effects at the WTC Environmental Health Centers.

A Lesson Learned:

In January 2011, Manhattan Community Board #2 participated with NYU in forming an NYU Oil Spill Subcommittee to address the health concerns of residents living directly above a large excavation/remediation project to remove ground saturated with #6 heating oil from a failed oil tank. When emissions from the nonroad excavation vehicles contaminated residents’ living quarters, we asked that the equipment use ULSD fuel and Best Available Technology filtration.

We were informed by NYU Administration’s representative that there was nothing in the contract that required the use of ULSD, and that it would be used only when ‘practicable’.

That is how we learned that the only way to achieve precautionary protections in a situation like the NYU Core project is to require that all excavation/construction contracts and sub-contracts be conditioned on use of ULSD, with Best Available Technology filtration, without exception.

That was a hard lesson, and this is a welcome opportunity to demonstrate that it was a lesson learned. It is the responsibility of every adult involved in this review process to create a guarantee that the health of the children of the Core area is not made secondary to the ‘practicable’.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify.

Ann Warner Arlen
Public Member of the Environment, Public Safety and Public Health Committee, Community Board #2, Manhattan
(Chair of the Committee from 1989 to 2003).

:: download PDF of Ann’s testimony ::

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