Kansas City Star calls for BNSF and EPA to act on citizen report of diesel exhaust air pollution from the Argentine Rail Yard

The Diesel Health Project and their community partners, the Argentine/Turner Good Neighbor Committee and Kansas Sierra Club, set out to monitor diesel exhaust pollution emitted by the BNSF Argentine Rail Yard.

Our objective was to determine if the pollution is a health risk to BNSF workers and the community, and if so, to inform the EPA, BNSF, and the public, and ask BNSF to resolve the problem.

We have achieved that objective.

We found diesel exhaust air pollution levels high enough that our consultant scientist Mark Chernaik, Ph.D. told us it could send people to the hospital, and result in increased mortality (death) for some.

EPA Region 7 was very helpful, and is reviewing our report.

We met with representatives of the BNSF Railroad, and requested the following of them:

Requests to the BNSF by the Argentine/Turner Good Neighbor Committee

The Good Neighbor Committee has studied and discussed the risks of diesel carbon emissions from the BNSF Rail Yards to the Argentine Community. We will present a report with the results of our tests to the community at Argentine Community Center and invite BNSF representatives to attend.

We acknowledge and will mention that the shutting down of the intermodal facility in Argentine yards and its move to Gardner has improved the air quality in some areas near the rail yard and that the overhaul of three switch engines, retrofitting them to Tier 2 emissions level, is a step in the right direction.

We hope we can announce that BNSF takes our concerns very seriously and acknowledges that diesel exhaust  emissions from diesel engines present risks to the residents in areas surrounding the rail yard. We would like to be able to tell the community that BNSF has agreed to take the following actions we have requested:

  1. To enclose in a building the area where locomotives being overhauled at the maintenance facility are tested and to place air handlers and scrubbers on the roof of that building to treat the exhaust thus limiting contamination of the air both to employees and the neighborhood.
  2. To develop a plan to move toward zero emissions beyond their fenceline as soon as possible, and to have no locomotives with greater than Tier 3 emissions within three years. To achieve this BNSF will need to put in place an accelerated schedule of upgrades and retrofitting of switch engines. (We assume BNSF is using low sulfur fuel that will allow the upgrade.)
  3. To install a real-time fence-line monitoring system to check black carbon, elemental carbon or other diesel markers.
  4. To keep the Good Neighbor Committee informed on a regular basis of progress in lowering diesel particle emissions.

We met with the community last week to share our findings and recommendations, and invited BNSF to attend and respond.  BNSF did not attend, but meeting attendees responded with interest.

The community meeting was attended by members of the press, who interviewed many participants. We were grateful to receive extensive news coverage by three of the most followed news organizations in the city – the Kansas City Star, KCTV 5 News, and KMBC Channel 41.

The Kansas City Star article was wonderful – an extensive front page (above the fold) story by Pulitzer-prize nominated medical reporter, Alan Bavley.

Yesterday, we were joined in our request by the Kansas City Star, which published a strong editorial – Rail yard pollution in Kansas City, Kan., requires a closer look by the EPA and BNSF

Among the Kansas City Star’s conclusions:

(this is)…a situation that deserves detailed investigation by local air quality officials with the federal Environmental Protection Agency. They have the expertise needed to better determine whether the emissions are harmful to humans and, if so, what should be done to curtail them.

Eventually, the EPA, BNSF and concerned residents should be able to reasonably determine whether a plan should be developed to further curtail diesel emissions at the rail yard.

Our next steps?  We are awaiting a response to our requests from the BNSF Railroad, and  hope that the company will decide to be a good neighbor and stop emitting diesel exhaust into the neighborhood.

In the interim, we will educate the community and BNSF workers on the health risks of diesel exhaust, and share information on how they can lessen their exposure to this dangerous air pollution.

For more information, check out the Kansas City Star’s editorial,:

Rail yard pollution in Kansas City, Kan., requires a closer look by the EPA and BNSF

or the other resources below:

Our report –> Argentine/Turner Diesel Exhaust Air Pollution Monitoring Final Report

Residents worry that Kansas City, Kan., rail yard threatens their health, by Alan Bavley, Kansas City Star (front page)

Emissions from KC rail yard affecting neighborhood health, KCTV5

KCK Group: Train yard emitting high levels of toxins, KSHB Channel 41