Thursday, December 13, 2007

New air pollution designation likely for freeway area

The very place where the Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants to expand particulate-producing freeways is likely to be declared a non-attaniment area for the revised, stricter particulate pollution standards that took effect a year ago.

There's even a one-paragraph discussion of the topic on page 118 of the 367-page draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed, unfunded $1.9 billion I-94 expansion project:

The study area in Wisconsin is in attainment for PM2.5, as based on the present designation. The air quality monitoring network in southeastern Wisconsin indicates that it is likely that a portion of the study areas may be designated as being in non-attainment for the revised PM2.5 standard, which became effective on December 17, 2006. The DNR is presently preparing information for review by U.S. EPA. A final determination on the attainment designation is expected near the end of 2009.

Wait! 2009! Isn't that the year WisDOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi suddenly decided that he wants to begin rebuilding the Mitchell Interchange in Milwaukee, afterWisDOT repeatedly assured neighborhood residents that the Milwaukee phase of the project wouldn't begin until the next decade? Could it possibly be that Busalacchi wants those shovels in the ground, the state fully committed to the project, before the non-attainment designation is officially announced?

Cause once that announcement comes, people might wonder why we're not trying to get cars off the road, instead of putting more of them on the road.

The state, by the way, fully aware that there are too many particulates entering too many lungs, is in absolutely no rush to do anything about it.

In that same single EIS paragraph:

If the designation changes from attainment to non-attainment, SEWRPC and the DNR will develop measures to control PM2.5 emissions in accordance with U.S. EPA guidelines so that the region will be in attainment by 2015.

And, in case you're wondering, here's a few things the EPA says PM2.5 exposure is associated with:

* Premature death in people with heart and lung disease
* Non-fatal heart attacks
* Increased hospital admissions, emergency room visits and doctor’s visits for respiratory diseases
* Increased hospital admission and ER visits for cardiovascular diseases
* Increased respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath
* Lung function changes, especially in children and people with lung diseases such as asthma
* Changes in heart rate variability
* Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
* Changes in subtle indicators of cardiovascular health, including levels of C-reactive protein and fibrinogen

Breathe on while you can.

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