All posts by CleanAirNow Staff

New report says BNSF yard and maintenance shop operations are the likely cause of diesel exhaust air pollution buildups in Argentine

The Diesel Health Project issued a new report this week that uses air pollution and weather data from the Argentine Village Green monitoring station and other sources to confirm that two sections of the BNSF rail yard are the likely source of frequent buildups of diesel exhaust air pollution in the Argentine neighborhood. These two sections are the neck of the classification yard, where old switch engines are used, and the Locomotive Maintenance Inspection Terminal (pictured below) which is used for load testing large numbers of locomotives.

BNSF Argentine Locomotive Maintenance Inspection Terminal
BNSF Argentine
Locomotive Maintenance Inspection Terminal

This study, conducted by Craig Volland, Air Quality Chair of the Kansas Sierra Club, was a follow-up to our 2015 study which  found dangerous levels of elemental carbon, a marker for diesel exhaust,  in several locations near  the BNSF Locomotive Repair Facility, where locomotives are load tested (photo above), and identified the likely source as locomotives being tested at the facility.

pm-image-air-alliance-houstonThe carbon particles in diesel exhaust are dangerous because they are typically coated with 30 or more toxins, and when inhaled, the smaller particles enter our bodies, along with their toxins.

Diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen, is known to cause many other diseases (see graphic below) and has been linked to many others.

Source: Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center
Source: Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center


A full copy of the report can be viewed below or downloaded here.  For more information, including the database used for the analysis, please email


Diesel Health Project Holds Clean Air Open House in Kansas City, Kansas

The Diesel Health Project held a Clean Air Open House last Thursday, May 26, at the Argentine Community Center.  Despite a tornado warning and a torrential rainfall of almost 4 inches that night, the  turnout was good.

We had a fun and informative Clean Air Open House, in partnership with seven great organizations that work in Wyandotte County and participated in the evening with tables, information sharing, and more.

  • Children’s Mercy Hospital
  • Climate + Energy
  • Community Health Council of Wyandotte County
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Historic Northeast-Midtown Association
  • NAACP, KCK Chapter
  • Kansas Sierra Club

Here are a few snapshots of the evening.

This Fall, the Diesel Health Project will offer training on the health risks of diesel exhaust air pollution and how people can protect themselves and their community.  If you or your organization would be interested in us giving the training at your location or event, please contact Eric Kirkendall at 785-550-3408 or

With thanks to everyone who made the evening possible, including wonderful Kansas City, Kansas Parks and Recreation staff; the amazing folks who run the fine Argentine Community Center; Elaine Giessel and Eric Aldape, who planned the event; our main speakers Richard Mabion and Leticia DeCaigny; the staff of Region 7 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the volunteers and folks who hosted tables, spoke, and helped in many other ways.

And thank you Luis Aparacio for many of the photographs.

Diesel Health Project represented at Kanza Sierra Club event

The Kanza Group of the Sierra Club  held their annual fundraiser and auction last month.  Eric Kirkendall, director of the Diesel Health Project,  attended and staffed an information table.

Richard Voss, who has been helping the Diesel Health Project by building an Arduino-based particulate matter monitor, displayed that very fascinating device.

Elaine at Sierra Club


The evening was MC’d by Elaine Giessel, vice-chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club.


Dr. Christopher J. Anderson, Research Assistant Professor at Iowa State University, and Assistant Director of the Iowa State University Climate Science Program was the guest speaker of the evening.  His presentation, “How Kansas Could Benefit from the Paris Climate Agreement” was excellent.

He emphasized how implementation of the agreement could substantially slow down the pace  of global warming.  He said he expects the impact of climate change on the Kansas City area to include increasing temperatures, more heavy rains and an increase in annual precipitation.

This was a fun evening, with wonderful food cooked by Sierra Club members, beers and wines from Kansas breweries and wineries, and a huge silent auction that included art, books,  items for the home and outdoors, and much much more.

Diesel Health Project in D.C.

Last week, the Diesel Health Project of Kansas City participated in the Moving Forward Network’s petition to reduce toxic diesel health exhaust pollution near ports and rail yards in Washington, D.C. Representatives from various states across the country from Kansas to California all met in Washington to gain attention, and awareness of this ongoing problem. During our trip to Washington, members of our team spoke with several different EPA organizations, where we described the harsh public health impacts as well as the overall pollution.

The main focus of the Diesel Health Project and other organizations focus was to directly reach out to Gina McCarthy, the EPA Administrator. Many of the community coordinators, such as Leticia DeCaigny, who is our very own coordinator at the Diesel Health Project believe that McCarthy does care about the problem, but the issue we are now facing is whether or not she is going to take action. Leticia is a large advocate for both the Diesel Health Project, and public health and safety in general, “After my 8-year old son died of cancer, I wanted to devote myself to reducing the incidence of childhood illness and to improve the quality of life for all”. Leticia went on to say that two things that motive her and other members of the Diesel Health Project to travel to Washington D.C. and become active in the campaign is to eliminate diesel emissions in the Kansas City area, and for others who face similar problems in sea and inland ports all over America.

Richard Mabion interviews Diesel Health Project members on KKFI Community Radio

Kansas City, Kansas environmental justice activist Richard Mabion recently interviewed Leticia DeCaigny and Eric Kirkendall on KKFI community radio about the  history and involvement of the Moving Forward Network’s zero emissions campaign and the work of the Diesel Health Project in Kansas City, Kansas.

Diesel Health Project Lead Community Organizer Richard Mabion conducts interview on KKFI.
Diesel Health Project Lead Community Organizer Richard Mabion conducts interview on KKFI.

Both groups are working on reducing air pollution, particularly diesel exhaust, from freight facilities such as ports and rail yards.  Diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen, and is linked to cardiovascular disease, asthma, dementia, and a number of other diseases. 

DeCaigny, who grew up in the Argentine/Turner area, said she was unaware of the health problems of diesel exhaust until the Moving Forward Network hosted a toxic tour of areas around the BNSF Argentine Rail Yard,

DeCaigny said that monitoring she and other members of the Argentine Turner Good Neighbor Committee conducted found levels of diesel exhaust high enough to hospitalize a person a few days after exposure.  Mabion said that at one location the pollution levels were so high that they could be fatal.

Diesel Health Project Program Manager Eric Kirkendall prepares for interview.
Diesel Health Project Program Manager Eric Kirkendallco prepares for interview.

The interview provided information on the recent progress of both groups, similar issues across the country, and ways community members can get involved, such as by visiting the Zero Emissions Now campaign website and signing the petition.

Click here to listen to an abridged version of the interview.

By Ananda Bhatia, Diesel Health Project

DHP team attends EPA Grant Training

DHP Community Health Director Eric Aldape
DHP Community Health Director Eric Aldape in EPA EJ grant training class’.

On Feb. 15 and 16, members of the Diesel Health Project team had EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants Training. The training included the requirements for their recently awarded grant, rules and regulations, and spending requirements.

“I think most important for me [to learn] was how to work effectively with the EPA folks it’s important to manage our grant properly,” DHP co-founder Eric Kirkendall said. “Meeting and getting to know the EPA EJ team was a plus.”

On the first day, the group – awardees from several cities in EPA Region 7 – attended a virtual training workshop at an EPA facility, where they shared information on their project and the progress they had made.

The second day of training, at EPA Regional Headquarters, began with a good session on the history of environmental justice and best practices and challenges of grants management.

At mid-day, Special guest Judge Arney Bland spoke before class attendees and EPA employees  about environmental justice and civil rights.  Afterward, EPA hosted a panel session including Diesel Health Project and other awardees.  To cap off an excellent event, EPA Environmental Justice Program Manager Althea Moses presented awards to DHP co-founder Richard Mabion and National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee chair Margaret May.

The day ended with more virtual training, where EPA experts presented on topics such as other grant programs and tools and techniques to use for grant management.

“They really reiterated that the EPA goal is to help us do a good job,” Kirkendall said. “They want us to succeed, so shared very useful information on what it takes to do that.”

By Ananda Bhatia, Diesel Health Project

Diesel Health Project supports the Zero Campaign with tour around BNSF Argentine Rail Yard

Heavily Polluting BNSF Argentine Locomotive Maintenance Facility

The Diesel Health Project is a member of the Moving Forward Network, a coalition of dozens of organizations throughout the country united in the Zero Campaign  – a movement to require that ports and other freight facilities meet clean air standards so that their deadly diesel emissions – causing asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, strokes, and neurological disorders – are eliminated.

To help raise awareness of the air pollution and health problems caused by unregulated rail yards and other freight hubs, the Diesel Health Project participated in the MFN National Week of Action with a bus tour of the overburdened neighborhoods around the BNSF Argentine Rail Yard,  and a demonstrations in the use of an air quality monitor.

_CJR3755_073015_5327 x 3556 (1) _CJR3682_073015_5009 x 3344 _CJR3646_073015_6016 x 4016 _CJR3589_073015_6016 x 4016

Thank you to the Diesel Health Project members, Argentine residents, members of the press, and everyone else who made this event a success.

To our friends, please check out the national Zero Campaign by clicking here, and sign up to help it achieve it’s goal of cleaning up dangerous ports, rail yards, and other freight facilities.






Three KC – area organizations attend EPA Community Air Monitoring Training

Leticia DeCaigny and I just returned from an excellent EPA workshop.  I was representing the Diesel Health Project (DHP) and Leticia represented both DHP and the Argentine/Turner Good Neighbor Committee.

We were pleasantly surprised to meet another Kansas City, Kansas community organizer, the very dynamic Rachel Jefferson, with the Historic Northeast Midtown Association.


For more photos and details on the training class, please visit EPA Community Air Monitoring Training: A Glimpse into EPA’s Air Sensor Toolbox




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


Kansas City Star – Argentine/Turner Good Neighbor Committee asks BNSF to clean up its act

Source: Kansas City Star

The Diesel Health Project and the Argentine/Turner Good Neighbor Committee are fortunate there are such smart and hard working news media folks in Kansas City!

As we reported a few days ago in KANSAS CITY, KANSAS COMMUNITY GROUP REQUESTS THAT BNSF REDUCE EMISSIONS OF DANGEROUS DIESEL EXHAUST AIR POLLUTION INTO THEIR NEIGHBORHOODSKCTV5 gave us amazing coverage on extremely short notice.  We were very impressed by what reporter Erika Tallan and her team can do in a few hours.  Click to view her video –

Emissions from KC rail yard affecting neighborhood health

Today, one of the best medical reporters in the U.S., Alan Bavley of the Kansas City Star, wrote an outstanding front page news story on our monitoring and requests of BNSF to clean up their pollution.  If you’d like to learn more about our work, please check out:

Residents worry that Kansas City, Kan., rail yard threatens their health