Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging it to rapidly deploy mobile air monitors in Chelsea.
In addition to serving as a major industrial hub for the region, recent demolition work left parts of Chelsea coated in thick dust. Chelsea has the highest rate of coronavirus cases in the state, and recent studies have linked increased coronavirus mortality to long-term exposure to airborne particulate matter. Despite the long-term sources of pollution and disproportionately high community rates of asthma, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer, there is no permanent air quality monitor in Chelsea, while nearby Boston has three permanent air quality monitors.
“The short-term pollution exposure from demolition dust represents a potential new health issue, but residents have been living with the unjust and cumulative burden of multiple pollution sources for decades,” write Senator Markey and Congresswoman Pressley. “The demolition and construction work in Chelsea provides a clear and pressing need for local air quality monitoring, as residents do not have an accurate measure of the local air quality or potential hazards to their health. Without a better collection of data in this community, local, state, regional, and federal officials cannot respond appropriately to dangerous inequities in air quality.”
Chelsea residents have been exposed to dangerous pollution and chemicals from several sources. Chelsea Creek is the storage site for most of the road salt for the New England area, 70-80 percent of the region’s heating fuel, and 100 percent of the jet fuel used by Logan International Airport. Additionally, more than 37,000 trucks drive in and out of Chelsea each day in order to stop at the nation’s largest produce center. The EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory found that in 2015, two thousand pounds of waste product were expelled into the air by petroleum storage facilities in Chelsea, including lung-irritating toluene and the carcinogen benzene.