Picture on Oceanview Air Emissions
More than three decades have come and gone since the first
voices were raised over the redevelopment of West Berkeley and its health
impact on Oceanview residents. These community voices have been kept
alive by the continued challenge of economic development to create sustainable
growth and maintain an acceptable level of environmental quality for
residents. The recent reports regarding West Berkeley's lowered life
expectancy, greater incidence of hospitalizations for asthma, and the
compelling public testimonials on health problems have begun to fuel
an environmental reawakening in this sector of the flatlands.
The Oceanview district, if you follow your nose, is bordered
by Interstate 80 and dotted with a wide range of manufacturing businesses.
This area is also recognized as having Berkeley's poorest air quality.
Residents have long suspected that their health is being compromised
and have repeatedly asked the city to quantify Oceanview's odorous air
quality. That has yet to be accomplished.
Historically, you will find that actual air monitoring
is as rare as chicken's teeth. The high cost of sampling air emissions
and the lack of political will have stifled any substantive investigations.
However, last year, council took the initial steps in
acknowledging Berkeley's air quality quandary by requesting that the
Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) conduct a cumulative
emissions study. Due in April, the study of BAAQMD discharge permit
holders located within a quarter mile of Second and Gilman streets is,
in effect, a first call for regional air regulators to develop the big
picture of air emissions in Oceanview.
Perhaps in response to the BAAQMD current scoping effort
or because of its severe limitations, Oceanview District Representative
Linda Maio has proposed another West Berkeley air monitoring study. This plan is small in scope, and appears to turn away
from the industrial stacks, and instead focuses on freeway emissions.
Maio's plan, which calls for air sampling at three locations, two of
which are to straddle the freeway, virtually dismisses the industrial
For years, citizen complaints have centered on odors and
toxic chemicals discharged by local manufacturing enterprises, and not
freeway emissions. It's no wonder that the proposed monitoring budget
of $10,000 and its sampling scheme are being called extremely shortsighted.
It should be noted that in 1997, a two-day air study,
was managed by the city's Toxic's Management Division concerning the
proposed Harrison Street playing fields. This monitoring effort, which
TMD staff publicly admitted was inadequate, cost two and a half times
the amount requested by Councilwoman Maio.
Moreover, the antiquated BAAQMD monitoring equipment offered
for the new Maio study is called a nephelometer. It is limited to measuring
the overall haziness of the air sampled, and hence is only an indirect
measurement of particulates, the obvious focus of Maio's plan. Furthermore,
the spot use of the nephelometer will also restrict its effectiveness
of collecting any usable data. Most importantly, this new study does
not include any analysis of airborne chemicals.
Maio's plan should be expanded and refocused to include
the Gilman Street corridor. A possible Gilman corridor monitoring plan
could set a scope of work to include a series of at least seven monitors
stretching along Gilman Street, downwind from industry and the freeway.
Two could be placed as described by Maio's plan and three more monitors
beginning at 7th Street, which is in the heart of the manufacturing
district. Finally, the last two monitors would be placed at Berkeley
High School and in the hill area.
This study would consist of a yearlong protocol of 35
samplings at each station, or all at once every 12 days. Sampling would
be conducted for both particulates and chemical analysis.
A Gilman Corridor plan, which would probably cost about
$300,000, is obviously more than requested by Maio, However, unlike
Maio's plan, this larger scope be a better investment of public money
because the city would actually create a real baseline for evaluating
Oceanview air quality, both of particulates and toxic chemicals.
Now is the time to answer these long-standing questions
regarding freeway and industrial emissions which continue to plague
west Berkeley residents. This is an opportunity Berkeley can not afford
Picture on Oceanview Air Emissions" by L A Wood
Published: February 11, 2000 Berkeley Voice