Senator Edward J. Markey and Representative Ayanna Pressley last week released a response from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1 to their request for rapid deployment of air quality monitors in Chelsea.
The lawmakers sent a letter to the EPA on July 15 in response to several concerns over Chelsea’s air quality, including recent demolition and construction work that left parts of Chelsea coated in thick dust; the city’s alarming rate of coronavirus cases, which is the highest in the state; and other longstanding sources of air pollution and other environmental concerns. The letter noted the absence of any federal or state ambient air quality monitors in Chelsea, and requested the immediate deployment of mobile air quality monitors.
In a response to the lawmakers, the EPA committed to work with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) to monitor particulate matter emissions and overall air quality, related to both recent demolition activities and longstanding air quality concerns. And if concerns are identified, the EPA committed to deploy a permanent air quality monitoring station in Chelsea. On a short-term basis, the EPA has identified nine mobile air sensors that can be deployed immediately and conveyed that information to MADEP.
“The residents of Chelsea can breathe a little easier today. The EPA has committed to taking the first step towards addressing poor air quality in Chelsea by deploying air quality monitors,” said Senator Markey. “Chelsea residents have faced the unjust burden of multiple pollution sources for too long. They deserve the right to air quality monitoring in their community, and I am glad the EPA has heeded our request to take this first step to responding to dangerous inequities in air quality.”
“The EPA deploying air quality monitoring in Chelsea is a welcome and critical first step in addressing the consequences of decades of environmental racism that has impacted our most communities,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “For too long, the residents of Chelsea have been breathing some of the most polluted air in the Commonwealth and suffering disproportionately high rates of asthma, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses as a result. We’re encouraged by this progress, and our work is far from over, we must continue to fight for environmental justice for Chelsea and other vulnerable communities across the country.”
“For too long Chelsea has been a sacrifice zone for the region,” said Maria Belen Power, Associate Executive Director, GreenRoots, Inc. “Our residents have suffered the consequences of poor air quality for generations, impacts which have been exacerbated by COVID19. The very least our communities deserve is access to relevant and reliable data on the air we breathe. We are extremely grateful to Congresswoman Pressley and Senator Markey for their leadership. Without their advocacy on behalf of our communities, this would not have happened. Today we celebrate this commitment by the EPA and MassDEP. We will continue to work hard to ensure our residents can breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives.”
GreenRoots is an environmental justice organization working in Chelsea and East Boston for more than 25 years, of which the organization has focused on air quality and public health for more than 14 years.
Both EPA and MADEP committed to following up with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to better monitor air pollution at the Chelsea demolition and construction sites, in order make sure companies are suppressing dust particles and minimizing exposure to residents. Additionally, the EPA committed to working with MADEP in studying air quality in Chelsea more closely this fall.