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Environmentalists Recruit Volunteers For W. Oakland Air Pollution Study

Environmental advocates are seeking up to one hundred volunteers in West Oakland to help detect concentrations of air pollutants in this highly industrialized area.

The area is the focal point of a legal tiff over whether the city may bar trains from bringing coal to a bulk freight terminal planned at a former US Army base at the harbor. The city and the port authority occupy nearly equal portions of the property.

The City Council last July voted to prohibit trains and trucks from bringing coal to the Army base property after nearby residents complained that the resulting coal dust and diesel exhaust particulates would cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, the company that wants to build and operate the freight facility, is challenging the ban in federal court.

“We’re looking for people to host [electronic] monitorsm" said Brian Beveridge, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.

The effort, dubbed “100 by 100” and sponsored chiefly by the Environmental Defense Fund, is part of a project that looks at ambient levels of air quality throughout the Bay Area, Beveridge said.

“Our approach is to go where the air is worst,” namely at pollution sources, he said. “We collect data thirty days at a time across three seasons. We create a map showing what the air looks like down to your front porch."

Participants will receive an air-quality sensor for taking readings; unlike stationary sensors, which are usually mounted in high places, WOEIP's web site said these devices "record what residents breathe at ground level."

The project will have “a really powerful marketplace impact” as well as public health effects, said Beveridge, as the data provided could impact consumer choices about where to buy and rent property. “Now, real estate has to begin to care about where they’ll develop and maybe they will push back on industries that are polluting, in the same way that communities are pushing back,” he said.

According to The Port of Oakland, diesel particulate volume has dropped 98 percent in the last ten years.  Reconfiguring cargo terminals and adding new truck gates reduced truck wait times, which combined to reduce vehicle pollution.

Anyone wishing to participate in the effort may contact Beveridge or WOEIP’s other co-director, Margaret Gordon. Their e-mail addresses are brian.woeip@gmail.com and margaret.woeip@gmail.com. Their phone numbers are 510-257-5646 and 510-257-4647, respectively.

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