Government officials and residents of Albany's South End neighborhoods have expressed concern about potential impacts related to crude oil transport and facilities in the area. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is rolling out an air sampling plan to screen for specific pollutants in the community.
Aside from worries over spills or derailments that could result in untold ecological harm and potential civil disaster, strange odors occasionally waft through downtown Albany neighborhoods, a constant reminder that oil trains are parked nearby.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, who on March 12th issued a moratorium on the expansion of the processing of crude oil at the Port of Albany, notes with the warmer weather on the way, the odors inevitably become sharper. "We need to test for certain things that these crude oils these DOT 111's when they're venting them after they offload them onto the ships or onto the holding area down at the port, what emissions are going into the air? That's what we're gonna start to test for."
Samplers will be located at three fixed, residential locations in the Albany South End neighborhood. Samples will be collected once a week in May. McCoy says initial screenings will determine a baseline of current air quality conditions and will help DEC officials determine if further sampling or enhanced inspections of Port of Albany facilities are necessary. "DEC's gonna do a baseline. We did an RFP so can we can bring a company in to look for all these different things, working in conjunction with professionals in each field to say, hey look, you should not just be testing the air for this, but you should also be testing for this this and this."
The community is being provided with a fourth sampler to use at its discretion each week in May. Mt. Hope neighborhood resident Bill Law explains how those air tests work. "The testing process will entail taking air samples, which will be tested to see if we're getting volatile organic compounds in the air. And these compounds would be things that we might find that would come from sources like Global and perhaps other facilities. So the procedure is to take an air sample, have that tested by DEC. I'll be acting as a community representative, taking the sample, along with DEC will also be taking samples. My responsibility is to when I get a call from anybody in the neighborhood who has smelled something is to go and take a sample at that moment."
The volatile organic compounds Law speaks of are chemicals emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs are constituents of crude oil, as well as other sources which are present in the area. The plan can be found on DEC’s website at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administration_pdf/global042914.pdf.
In addition to the VOC sampling, DEC monitors particulate matter at the Albany County Department of Health building on Ferry and Green Streets. Data from that monitor, as well as data from the other monitors in the Capital Region, show the entire area meets the ambient air quality standards as set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Separate from the community air screening, DEC will also sample formaldehyde at its existing Green Street monitor location from May through August.
The samples will be collected over a 24-hour period every sixth day, which is the schedule used by the Statewide Air Toxics program. In addition, DEC will purchase portable equipment necessary to measure ambient levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S). If there are any plans for significant changes in the origin of the crude oil being transported through the area, DEC will survey H2S concentrations in neighborhoods around the Port of Albany before and after the changes occur.
Related: State's Actions on Transport of Crude Oil - including Governor Cuomo's letter to President Obama and State's comprehensive crude oil transportation safety report