A Department of Environmental Protection study shows that air quality in Paterson is comparable to other areas of New Jersey and confirms that the DEP's statewide monitoring network is effective at tracking urban air pollutants, Acting Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.
The Urban Community Air Toxics Monitoring Project, funded by a $495,000 grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, is the most comprehensive of its kind ever undertaken in New Jersey.
"The DEP will work with Mayor Joey Torres and all members of the community to track down sources of pollution and improve Paterson's air," Commissioner Martin said. "This and future studies will help the DEP develop better tools to find sources of air pollution, measure the impacts of these pollutants and enforce our tough air standards to better protect our residents in urban areas."
The study monitored 132 air toxins over 14 months. One chemical, p-dichlorobenzene, used in urinal cakes, dyes and pharmaceuticals, measured higher than levels detected at air-monitoring stations in the other parts of the state during a two-month span. The DEP believes the elevated levels may have been caused by a short-term activity.
"The DEP is conducting an investigation into why this pollution occurred and will focus studies on determining what caused the elevated levels," Commissioner Martin said.
The study found that eight additional toxins consistently exceeded DEP long-term health standards, with the major contributor being benzene, a chemical usually associated with vehicle emissions. The results were consistent with levels measured in other monitoring stations in New Jersey.
While the pollutants can come from stationary sources, they are also associated with vehicle emissions or are the byproducts of combustion, such as the burning of wood.
One of the pollutants, carbon tetrachloride, is no longer emitted in the United States but persists and drifts in the atmosphere. Another chemical, tetrachloroethylene or perchloroethylene, is found in solvents and dry-cleaning agents. The DEP has proposed rules phasing out the use of this chemical by dry cleaners.
The DEP placed rooftop air monitors at strategic locations in Paterson, including two schools, to develop an intricate analysis of air pollution in an urban area. Paterson was selected because of its residential, commercial and industrial land uses in close proximity of each other.
The DEP monitored toxic air pollutants that included volatile organic chemicals, hydrocarbons and metals. The results in Paterson were compared with results from DEP urban monitoring stations in Camden, Elizabeth and New Brunswick, and a rural monitoring station in Chester, Morris County.
Over the years, the DEP has taken numerous steps to reduce air pollution, including launching programs to reduce diesel emissions from trucks and buses, taking legal action to force out-of-state power plants to reduce pollution that drifts to New Jersey, and requiring facilities in New Jersey to aggressively check for and take steps to reduce air pollutants classified as hazardous.
To read the Urban Community Air Toxics Monitoring Project report, go to: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dsr/paterson-study/