Air quality still an issue at soccer fields
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Air quality still an issue at soccer fields
By John Geluardi Berkeley Daily Planet, July 24, 2002

An ongoing air study at the popular Harrison soccer fields in west Berkeley continues to show elevated levels of particulate matter, which some say can aggravate respiratory problems. Particulate matter is pollution, small airborne pieces of liquid or solid that originate from a variety of sources. It is most often associated with exhaust from automobiles, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management Web site.

The findings come despite the installation of a long-planned dust suppression system that promised to improve safety standards for employees at the Berkeley Transfer Station. City officials had hoped the system would also reduce particulate levels at Harrison Field. The study revealed that each month since April the airborne matter exceeded state Environmental Protection Agency standards by nine to 15 times.

And according to city Hazardous Materials Supervisor Nabil Al-Hadithy, the tests show that air at Harrison Field is twice as concentrated with the particulate matter as downtown San Jose, and three times as high as downtown San Francisco.

Despite the findings, Al-Hadithy said there is no hard evidence that a significant health risk exists.
“City staff is not going to make any assessments about possible health risks until further analysis is completed,” Al-Hadithy said.

The field is used heavily by the Alameda-Contra Costa Soccer League, which consists mostly of players between the ages of 6 and 18. Despite the lack of specific information about health risks, the city posted a sign at the field warning users about possible risks from particulate matter.

Particulate matter can be hazardous to children and the elderly who are more sensitive to respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis, according to the BAAQMD.

Particulate Matter 10, which is responsible for the high levels at Harrison Field, consists of particles about 10 micrograms in size. PM 10 is not as dangerous as Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM 2.5), which is much smaller and embeds deeper in the lung’s membrane. Data from the last four months of the air study shows PM 2.5 has not exceeded state standards, although 25 days of data are missing from the May and June reports.

The field is adjacent to the Berkeley Transfer Station, where large amounts of dust are kicked up when waste is moved from trucks to hauling containers. In May, the city installed a $60,000 dust suppression system. As a byproduct of the installation, city officials had hoped the system would lower the level of PM 10 at Harrison Field. However, the results show PM 10 exceeded state EPA standards at a greater rate after the system was installed. In March, before the system was put in, the air at the field had elevated PM 10 levels on nine days. During May and June there were 11 elevated days in each month.

Air quality could be a consideration in a recent proposal to build the Ursula Sherman Village, a transition home for 132 adults and children who are struggling to get off the streets. Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency is developing plans for the home, which would provide a variety of services including education, job training and an on-site health center. The project is proposed at the southwest edge of the field.

Community Environmental Advisory Commissioner L A Wood, who is also a candidate for Council District 4, said the study ought to change its focus. “I would like the city to take their blinders off and look at the industry around the park instead of just the freeway and transfer station,” Wood said.

Test shows poor air quality at Harrison Park
John Geluardi, Berkeley Daily Planet, August 4-5, 2001

Initial results of a Harrison Park air study confirmed predictions that airborne particulate matter has increased over the soccer field and alarmed some city officials with an increase as much as 60 percent above state-recommended levels.

"I expected higher numbers, but was surprised at the level of increases," said Hazardous Materials Supervisor Nabil Al-Hadithy.

Parks and Waterfront Director Lisa Caronna cautioned that the findings are preliminary and there is still more testing to be done.

"We don't have all the data yet and when we do, we will, take whatever is the most appropriate action."

The $40,000 study began at the newly-finished soccer field July 1 and will continue for 11 months. The data for the month of July was released Aug. 2 and is considered preliminary. The study will be carried out over the course of a year to monitor air quality under, all kinds of weather conditions.

A 1997 study has been criticized by members of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission as insufficient because it was conducted over a period of only two days.

The city contracted with private consultant Applied Measurement Science to perform the study. The contract called for analysis of two different sizes of particulate matter. The study will also analyze the air for traces, of the carcinogen chromium 6. The two particulates are Particulate Matter 10 (PM-10), which are particles about 10 micrograms in size and the even smaller Particulate Matter 25 (PM-2.5), which is 25 micrograms in size, or about one-seventh the width of a strand of hair, according to Bay Area Air Quality Management District spokesperson Ralph Borrnann.

Particulate matter is small air borne pieces of liquid or solid matter that comes from a variety of sources, but is most often associated with exhaust from automobiles, according to Borrmann.

Eric Winegar, who is carrying out the analysis for Applied Measurement Science, said the equipment he was using to measure PM-25 was not working correctly so the results are unavailable. But he did provide a month's worth of data on PM-10. Both particulates can infiltrate the lungs but the more dangerous of the two is PM-2.5 because it is so small it can deeply penetrate the membranes in the lungs. "PM-2.5 is more of a sensitive issue for people who are more naturally sensitive to respiratory problems such as children, seniors and those who suffer from respiratory problems," Bonmann said. "It can increase the frequency and severity of asthma attacks and bronchitis for example."

The initial test results, show that on nine occasions in July, the levels of PM-10 rose above the state Environmental Protection Agency's recommended level of 0.050 micrograms per cubic meter. In one case, on July 2, the 24-hour average was 35 micrograms or 60 percent above what the state regards as acceptable.

Al-Hadithy said he can't say whether the high numbers constitute a health hazard until a toxicologist examines the test results.

According to an Aug. 2 staff report from the Toxics Management Division, there was an expectation of higher numbers because the field is located near a section of interstate 80 that was recently widened, which resulted in a 20 percent increase in the traffic volume during heavy commute times. Another 18 percent increase is estimated by 2005 according to the report.

The initial results show the worst time of day at the soccer field are between 10 a.m. and noon.

The hours caused Community Environmental Advisory Commissioner LA Wood to speculate the particulates were coming from the city's refuse transfer station located next to the park at Harrison and Second streets or perhaps from two industrial sites in the area.

Al Hadithy said the monitoring equipment was placed in an area where it would be close to the transfer station and the freeway so test results would show a "worst case scenario."

"I'm very interested in the sources of the particulate matter," Wood said. "I'm surprised that there is no mention of the possibility of Berkeley Asphalt or Pacific Steel as possible contributors." Both businesses are within three blocks of the playing field.

Wood also said he was suspicious of the faulty equipment that was unable to produce the more hazardous PM-2.5 results. "There's two things that make me wonder if the city is sitting on more results, the test has been going on for the last month and there should be more information then what's been released," he said "and the city's historic tendency to sweep air issues related to Harrison Park under the carpet.

Poor air quality Notices wanted at west Berkeley soccer fields
John Geluardi, Berkeley Daily Planet, November 3-4, 2001

After receiving several months of data from a yearlong study at Harrison Soccer Fields, the Community Environmental Advisory Commission asked city staff to post notices of poor air quality around the popular field.

The recommendation also asks the planning department to make sure parents have signed mandatory waivers before allowing their children, to play at the field, located at Fifth and Harrison.

Some commissioners thought the notices and waivers were critical because of the many youth soccer games at the field. According to the Alameda-Contra Costa Soccer League Web site, 137 soccer games are played at the field between Sept. 8 and Nov. 10.

The commission approved the recommendation at its Thursday meeting by a vote of 6-1-2 with Commissioner Robert Clear voting in opposition and new Commissioner Sarah MasCusick and temporary Commissioner Dan Simon abstaining. Clear said he voted against die recommendation because be thought the commission did not have enough time to discuss the issue before voting.

With Vice Chairperson L A Wood chairing the meeting while Chairperson Elmer Grossman is away, the commission requested the posting because preliminary results from an air study showed the level of Particulate Matter 10 exceeded state standards an average of five times a month since July 1, when the study began. The most recent test results show that during the first two weeks of October, the particulate matter level exceeded state standards four times. "I believe the city has an obligation to inform the public because Harrison Field was a very controversial project to begin with and the most controversial thing about it was its environmental quality," Wood said.

The sports facility was the site of another environmental controversy earlier this year when construction of the Harrison Field Skate Park, also located at Fifth and Harrison streets, was halted because of the discovery of the carcinogen Chromium 6 in groundwater during excavation of nine-foot deep skate bowls. Removing the groundwater, sealing the base of the bowls and redesigning the skate park added $365,000 to the city's total cost of construction.

Particulate matter is small airborne pieces of liquid or solid matter that originates from a variety of sources, but is most often associated with exhaust from automobiles, according to information posted on the Bay Area Air Quality Management Web site.

The city contracted with Applied Measurement Science to conduct a one-year air study because of concerns about the widening of the Interstate 80 Freeway, which is adjacent to the field. In addition there are several industrial manufacturing facilities and a waste transfer station nearby.

The $40,000 contact funded a study that included Particulate Matter 10 (PM-10) particles about 10 micro-grams in size -- and the even smaller Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM-25) -- 25 micrograms, or about one-seventh the width of a strand of hair, according to Bay Area Air Quality Management District spokesperson Ralph Borrmann. Medical experts consider PM-2.5 to be the more dangerous substance because its small size allows it to become deeply imbedded in the tissue of the lungs.

So far Applied Measurement Science hasn't produced any useable PM-25 data because of equipment problems. But according to Hazardous Materials Supervisor Nabil Al-Hadithy, it is reasonable to assume PM-2.5 has been exceeding the state Environmental Protection Agency's recommended levels 05 micrograms per cubic meter averaged over 24 hours. The PM2.5 data could be available as early as next week," he said. Al-Hadithy cautioned it would be unwise to assume the preliminary test results mean there is a health risk for those who use Harrison Field or live nearby.

Dr. Eric Winegar, who is carrying out the study for AMS, said he will include a health risk assessment when the study is completed in June. "Generally speaking risk assessments are done over a long period of time," he said. Three to four months just isn't enough." Winegar said there was enough information to post notices at the field as long as they were not worded in an alarming way.

The commission also asked the planning department to determine if soccer organizations that use the field have been fulfilling the requirement put into place with the site's use permit, that parents sign a waiver.

According to the use permit, parents and adults who use the field are required to sign a waiver stating they understand that field is in an industrial area and that traffic noises and odors in the area are "normal".

"I've asked to see these waivers, which Current Planning (a division of the planning department) is supposed to have on file," Commissioner Wood said. "And I don't think they exist."

For to-date test data from the Harrison Field air study go to: www.airmeasurement.com/berkeley.html


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