2010 April 2: PA Carlisle & Shippensburg: CAB (Clean Air Board) educates Shippensburg students
Clean Air Board set to tackle construction, continue monitoring in traffic-heavy areas
By Dale Heberlig, Sentinel Reporter, April 2, 2010
Last updated: Friday, April 2, 2010 7:58 AM EDT
Shippensburg faces the same air quality problems as Carlisle, according to Shippensburg University professor Tim Hawkins.
Although no one from Shippensburg’s community-at-large turned out for the presentation, Hawkins and other officers of the Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania offered up a primer on particulate matter to 100 SU students Thursday evening in the Old Main Chapel.
A major goal of the CAB is education, and they gave the audience at SU some thought-provoking material.
While most students attended Thursday’s session because it was a class requirement, several students expressed a keen awareness of air quality issues.
“We should be conscious of anything that has to do with the environment,” said 21-year-old Gus Frederick, a native of the Allentown area. “We know about these dangers (and) we need to convince everyone of the problem. This information has to be presented more and more.”
Jeff Vaughn, a 20-year-old SU student from Reedsville, added, “This is the kind of stuff people don’t think about, and it can aggravate pre-existing medical conditions.”
The CAB maintains that there are often unhealthy levels of particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air we breathe.
PM2.5 particulate are invisible specks of matter 30 times smaller that a human hair in diameter. Diesel exhaust fumes are the largest producer of PM2.5 and the particles can be breathed into human lungs and contribute to pulmonary disease or aggravate symptoms that are already present.
Most at-risk are the elderly people and young children. Despite the absence of large cities, Cumberland County is at the epicenter of the PM2.5 plague because its a hub for truck traffic and warehousing development.
“The issue here in Shippensburg is the same as in Carlisle,” Hawkins says. “It will get worse with the development of the intermodal hub in Chambersburg. Trains run on diesel.”
Hawkins has run “Airestotle,” a mobile PM2.5 monitor, in the backyard of his Shippensburg home since March 17. In that time the daily PM2.5 average has elevated over the healthy level three times, into a zone that can cause health problems for those with heart or lung issues.
“The key factor is the presence of Interstate 81,” Hawkins said Thursday.
A monitor installed by the Environmental Protection Agency on the mountainside north of Carlisle registered levels higher than healthy 78 days since 2001.
Duane Fickeisen, treasurer of the CAB, said his group played a role in recent legislation to limit the idling of diesel engines for more than 5 minutes in any hour.
Portions of the trucking industry — including Keen Transport in Carlisle and the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association — have supported efforts to reduce PM2.5 emissions, he added.
Many independent truckers have been less supportive — for good reason.
Fickeisen said there are technical obstacles. Long-haul truckers must rest in their rigs and that requires the engine to run to provide heat, air conditioning and power for computer operations and entertainment.
There are options, but they’re costly, Fickeisen said. An alternative power unit (APU) in the form of a battery back can cost several thousand dollars.
According to Fickeisen, 90 percent of big rigs are owned by businesses with three or fewer rigs, making the cost issue one of significance.
CAB member Thomas Au said clean construction practices is the next target of a national task force.
“If public money is being used for construction projects, we want clean diesel equipment to be used,” Au said.
One way to make diesel engines cleaner is the use of diesel particulate filters, but that technology is costly and has yet to be perfected.
Cost may become relative in comparison to health concerns, officials said.
Children are particularly vulnerable because their lungs are much smaller than fully developed lungs, Fickeisen said, but children use the same volume of oxygen as adults.
In CAB literature, Carlisle pediatrician Steve Krebs noted, “There is strong evidence that diesel exhaust emissions are harmful to the health of our children.”