COMMUNITY MEETING Press Release
Air Monitoring Results in West Berkeley
   

For Immediate Release: January 28, 2008
Contact: Denny Larson, Global Community Monitor (GCM): 415-xxx-xxxx or Bradley Angel , Greenaction; 415-xxx-xxxx or L A Wood, West Berkeley Air Monitors: 510xxx=xxxx

New Community Air Monitoring Results in West Berkeley Point to Troubled Steel Casting Plant

Community Meeting to Discuss Sampling Results Over Eight Month Period for Heavy Metal Particles Downwind of Pacific Steel Casting Operations

(West Berkeley, California) A community meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 29, 2008, in West Berkeley to discuss new air monitoring results in a citizen monitoring study funded by the Bay Area Air District. The test results represent the largest air study of the area ever conducted and focused on toxic heavy metal particles in the Berkeley area. The target metals include the suspected fingerprint of Pacific Steel Casting based on the company’s own reports.

Contact: Denny Larson, Global Community Monitor (GCM): 415-xxx-xxxx
Ruth Breech, GCM: 415-xxx-xxxx

New Community Air Monitoring Results in West Berkeley Point to Troubled Steel Casting Plant
Community Meeting Set to Discuss Results Over Eight Month Period for Heavy Metal Particles Downwind of Pacific Steel Casting Operations


(West Berkeley, California) A community meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 29, 2008, in West Berkeley to discuss new air monitoring results in a citizen monitoring study funded by the Bay Area Air District. The test results represent the largest air study of the area ever conducted and focused on toxic heavy metal particles. The target metals include the suspected fingerprint of Pacific Steel Casting based on the companies own reports.

  • What: A community meeting sponsored by community and environmental groups concerned about toxic emissions from the Pacific Steel Casting plant located near residential areas, child care centers and schools. New air monitoring results will be presented.
  • Where: West Berkeley Senior Center, 1900 6th Street, Berkeley, CA
  • When: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 from 7-9 PM
  • Who: Global Community Monitor, Greenaction, West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs and the Ecology Center.
  • Why: The West Berkeley Community Monitoring Project tested the air between April and November 2007.  The project took more than 60 air samples at 24 locations near Pacific Steel Casting in West Berkeley.  Background or control samples were taken to identify pollution coming from the freeway and other nearby sources.

The program identified Pacific Steel Casting as the largest point source of a variety of air pollutants of concern.  The project monitored for particulate matter (PM 10) using portable air samplers recommended by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.  The sampler uses a calibrated pump to gather particles on filters which are tested for heavy metal pollutants such as Lead, Manganese, Nickel, and Zinc by a US EPA certified laboratory.

The monitoring was structured around Pacific Steel's emissions and that of prevailing wind patterns. Samples were taken when wind direction was from the PSC area toward the monitor for at least 12 hours.

Berkeley air monitoring map

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

West Berkeley Community Air Monitoring Project was funded by an Air District grant to the environmental group Global Community Monitor.  Trained community volunteers did the testing.

Only toxic metals are being tested for.  Other pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and phenol—substances with serious health consequences and also emitted by Pacific Steel—were not included. 

The testing involved good science:

    • Standard operating practices were developed to ensure testing uniformity and consistency.
    • The monitoring device used was recommended by the Air District because it of its accuracy and ease of use. 
    • A written monitoring plan was developed with clear site selection criteria.
    • Air District staff actually observed the team’s site selection process and use of the monitor on-site.  
    • All volunteers were trained in how to properly use the monitor and handle samples.
    • Official meteorological data was used to determine sample validity.
    • Samples not meeting quality control criteria were discarded.
    • Sample chain of custody procedures were followed and documented.
    • An EPA approved analytical lab was used.
    • Sample results were compared with published World Health Organization and EPA health level
  • 64 air samples were taken between late May and early November--over half of these samples contained toxic metals exceeding health levels.  For example, manganese levels at the 600-block of Gilman Street and 1300-block of 3rd Street were 10-20 times the World health Organization’s safe health level; nickel levels were up to 330 times the US EPA safe health level
  • Almost half of the unsafe samples were taken after September 15, the date by which Pacific Steel claims to have installed additional pollution controls.
  • Pacific Steel is the only major industrial source of manganese and accounts for 99% of all industrial nickel emissions in West Berkeley.  Also, higher levels of these toxic metals were found closer to Pacific Steel.
  • Monitoring close to the freeway and train tracks suggest these are not the source of the high levels of toxic metals found.
  • Monitoring involved taking multiple, 24-hour samples weeks or months apart, strongly suggesting these samples are representative of the daily exposures experienced by residents, workers, and children in nearby schools and day care centers.
  • Unhealthy metal levels were found over half a mile from Pacific Steel.  Berkeley has a population density of 10,000/square mile—potentially thousands are exposed to toxic air emissions.  Over a half a dozen schools and childcare centers are in the affected area.
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