Air Quality Near T.F. Green Airport Found Normal

WARWICK - Preliminary results of a study of air quality around T. F. Green Airport suggest that, while the airport contributes soot, the city's soot levels are on a par with those in other suburban communities and below those in Providence.

Results from the first six months of the year-long study also suggest that air near the airport does not contain volatile organic compounds in higher levels than elsewhere in the state.

In short, said Robert Vanderslice, a Health Department official, "We got a lot of information that makes us feel better about the impacts than we did ahead of time."

The Department of Environmental Management yesterday released partial results of the study, which was made possible by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Neighbors have long contended that exhaust and chemicals from the airport are harmful to their health.

Last spring, the DEM placed four monitoring sites near the airport, and one across town near Gorton Junior High School.

The results are being compared with data the DEM has been collecting in Providence, Pawtucket, East Providence, and West Greenwich.

The results released yesterday were based on data collected from April through early December. Although the study is looking at several other pollutants, only the data on soot and volatile organic compounds was ready for release yesterday.

The study appears to confirm that the airport contributes a significant amount of soot, or black carbon, which is a component of diesel and jet exhaust, said Barbara H. Morin, supervising environmental scientist with the DEM. "When a particular site is downwind of the airport, it tends to have higher concentrations," she said.

Still, the soot levels recorded when the wind was blowing from the airport was on a par with average levels recorded in Providence -- about a half-microgram per cubic meter of air.

On average, soot levels were lower than in Providence and on par with those recorded in a residential area in the Rumford section of East Providence.

Vanderslice said there are no guidelines for gauging the toxicity of soot.

The levels of volatile organic compounds -- including industrial solvents, dry-cleaning chemicals, and exhaust components such as benzene -- are measured by taking air samples over a 24-hour period once every six days, so the level of those chemicals cannot be compared with the wind data.

Overall, the levels of the volatile organic compounds found in Warwick were far below the benchmarks designated by the Health Department as "unhealthy."

Five compounds were found in levels that exceeded the state's more stringent "target" standards. But the levels are similar to those found at the state's other monitoring sites and throughout the urban Northeast, Vanderslice said.

"While there is still a great deal of data to be collected and analyzed, it is obvious that the study is being conducted thoroughly and responsibly," Mayor Scott Avedisian said in a statement. "Hopefully, once all the final data is analyzed, we will have a clearer indication of exactly what direct impact the airport is having on our community." / (401) 277-8068

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