Air Pollution

Things related to air pollution from large industrial sources of pollution.

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Questions? Need an updated map? Email me andy@andyarthur.org.

Summer U.S. Forecast: Hotter, More Polluted Than Usual by Dr. Jeff Masters

"The odds favor a hotter than average summer for much of the Western U.S., and a closer to average one for the Eastern U.S., according to the May seasonal forecasts from The Weather Company’s WSI branch, and Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). Meteorological summer began on June 1, and the first week of summer has been on the cool side for much of the United States. However, a shift in the jet stream pattern is coming late this week and into early next week, which will bring hot conditions to much of the eastern half of the U.S. WSI anticipates the possibility of a weak El Nino late summer, perhaps with enough influence on the tropical atmosphere to limit the magnitude of the heat across the northern Plains, Great Lakes, and Eastern U.S. Similarly, in an outlook issued in mid-May, a model-based outlook from IRI and NOAA gave slightly-better-than-even odds of El Niño developing. However, the offiical NOAA/IRI forecast from early May has lower odds, between 40% and 50%. If El Niño does not develop, the odds of stronger and more widespread U.S. heat this summer will rise."

"NOAA is predicting increased odds of a hot summer not only for the Western U.S., but also for the South and Northeast. WSI also predicts a hot summer for the Southeast during July and August. So, what does this mean for air pollution levels this summer?"

Google Maps: Fine Particulate Matter PM2.5 2003-2011 Average

The Outdoor Air Quality - Fine Particulate Matter data available on CDC WONDER are geographically aggregated daily measures of fine particulate matter in the outdoor air, spanning the years 2003-2011. PM2.5 particles are air pollutants with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 micrometers. Reported measures are the daily measure of fine particulate matter in micrograms per cubic meter (PM2.5) (µg/m³), the number of observations, minimum and maximum range value, and standard deviation. Data are available by place (combined 48 contiguous states plus the District of Columbia, region, division, state, county), time (year, month, day) and specified fine particulate matter (µg/m³)value. County-level and higher data are aggregated from 10 kilometer square spatial resolution grids.

https://wonder.cdc.gov/controller/datarequest/D73

Sulfur Dioxide Emissions in NY State

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is one of a group of gases called sulfur oxides (SOx). While all of these gases are harmful to human health and the environment, SO2 is of greater concern.

Control measures that reduce SO2 can generally be expected to reduce people’s exposures to all gaseous SOx. This may have the important co-benefit of reducing the formation of particulate SOx such as fine sulfate particles.

Emissions that lead to high concentrations of SO2 generally also lead to the formation of other SOx. The largest sources of SO2 emissions are from fossil fuel combustion at power plants andother industrial facilities.

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is one of a group of gases called sulfur oxides (SOx). While all of these gases are harmful to human health and the environment, SO2 is of greater concern.

Control measures that reduce SO2 can generally be expected to reduce people’s exposures to all gaseous SOx. This may have the important co-benefit of reducing the formation of particulate SOx such as fine sulfate particles.

Emissions that lead to high concentrations of SO2 generally also lead to the formation of other SOx. The largest sources of SO2 emissions are from fossil fuel combustion at power plants andother industrial facilities.

In 2013, 52% of the state's industrial emissions of sulfur dioxide come from four coal fired power plants -- Somerset Operating Company, Huntley Steam Station, Cayuga Operating Company and Dunkirk Steam Generating Station. Most of these plants now are only used occasionally, if not permanently retired in favor of natural gas repowering or abandonment.

Data Source: Title V Emissions Inventory, 2013. https://data.ny.gov/Energy-Environment/Title-V-Emissions-Inventory-Beginning-2010/4ry5-tfin

Largest Emitters of Volatile Organic Pollutants in NY State

Today's chart looks at major industrial emitters of VOC in our state. The state's largest emitter of volatile organic compounds is the Pactiv Factory in Canadaigua which makes disposable polysytrene food service containers. The second largest VOC polluter in the state is Dupont Yerkes Plant in Tonawanda, which makes laminate for counter tops.

Organic compounds are chemicals that contain carbon and are found in all living things. Volatile organic compounds, sometimes referred to as VOCs, are organic compounds that easily become vapors or gases. Along with carbon, they contain elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur or nitrogen. Volatile organic compounds are released from burning fuel, such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas. They are also emitted from oil and gas fields and diesel exhaust. They are also released from solvents, paints, glues, and other products that are used and stored at home and at work. Many volatile organic compounds are also hazardous air pollutants. Volatile organic compounds, when combined with nitrogen oxides, react to form ground-level ozone, or smog, which contributes to climate change. Examples of volatile organic compounds are gasoline, benzene, formaldehyde, solvents such as toluene and xylene, styrene, and perchloroethylene (or tetrachloroethylene), the main solvent used in dry cleaning.

This is 2013 Year Data, the most recent available.

Data Source: Title V Emissions Inventory, Year 2013. https://data.ny.gov/Energy-Environment/Title-V-Emissions-Inventory-Beginning-2010/4ry5-tfin

Largest Sources of NOx Industrial Emissions in New York

The largest source of industrial emissions (Title V) of nitrogen oxides in New York State is the 675-MW Somerset Power Generating station in Barker, along Lake Ontario in Niagara County. This plant is no longer economic to run and without nearby supply of natural gas, it is expected to be fully retired in the next few years. After Somerset Generating station, the state's second largest source of NOx is LaFarge aka Blue Circle Cement in Coeymans. Eastman Business Park's Coal Fired Power Plant and Cayuga Generating Station, another coal fired plant, are other large NOx emitters in our state. Then there are many other fossil fuel burning plants and other industrial sources of NOx emissions in our state. Not shown on the chart is non-industrial sources of NOx, including automobiles and agriculture.

NOx is a generic term for the mono-nitrogen oxides NO and NO2 (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide). They are produced from the reaction among nitrogen, oxygen and even hydrocarbons (during combustion), especially at high temperatures. In areas of high motor vehicle traffic, such as in large cities, the amount of nitrogen oxides emitted into the atmosphere as air pollution can be significant. NOx gases are formed whenever combustion occurs in the presence of nitrogen – as in an air-breathing engine; they also are produced naturally by lightning. In atmospheric chemistry, the term means the total concentration of NO and NO2. NOx gases react to form smog and acid rain as well as being central to the formation of tropospheric ozone.

This is 2013 Year Data, the most recent available.

Data Source: Title V Emissions Inventory, Year 2013. https://data.ny.gov/Energy-Environment/Title-V-Emissions-Inventory-Beginning-2010/4ry5-tfin

Particulate Matter Emissions, Title V Emitters, by percentage

In 2013, the latest year that data is available, Title V Large Industrial Air Pollution emitters released 15,973 tons of particulate matter in New York State. The largest emitter was Finch Paper in Glens Falls, releasing 5,795 tons or about 36% of state's total particulate emissions from Title V facilities. LaFarge aka Blue Circle Cement in Coeymans was second, releasing 1,440 tons of particulate matter or about 9% of state's total Title V industrial emissions.

Data Source: Title V Emissions Inventory. https://data.ny.gov/Energy-Environment/Title-V-Emissions-Inventory-Beginning-2010/4ry5-tfin

1948 Donora smog

"The 1948 Donora smog was a historic air inversion that resulted in a wall of smog that killed 20 people and sickened 7,000 more in Donora, Pennsylvania, a mill town on the Monongahela River, 24 miles (39 km) southeast of Pittsburgh."

"Sixty years later, the incident was described by The New York Times as "one of the worst air pollution disasters in the nation's history". Even 10 years after the incident, mortality rates in Donora were significantly higher than those in other communities nearby."

"The incident was little spoken of in Donora until a historical marker was placed in the town in 1998, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the incident. The 60th anniversary, in 2008, was commemorated with memorials for the families of the victims and other educational programs. The Donora Smog Museum was opened on October 20, 2008, located in an old storefront at 595 McKean Avenue near Sixth Street, with the slogan "Clean Air Started Here". Fewer than 6,000 people still live in Donora."

Google Maps: New York’s Communities With 50 Largest Hazardous Air Polluters

Hazardous air pollutants, also known as toxic air pollutants or air toxics, are those 187 air pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as reproductive effects or birth defects, or adverse environmental effects. This interactive map shows the communities that host 50 largest hazardous air polluters based on the 2013 data (most recent available from the DEC). The communities hosting the largest HAP polluters are shown in red, lower on the list are blues. The biggest HAP emitters in the state are Alcoa Massena Operations (West Plant), Eastman Business Park, Reynolds Metals St Lawrence Reduction Plant, Lafarge Building Materials Inc and Morton Salt Inc.

More about Hazardous Air Pollutants: https://www.epa.gov/haps/what-are-hazardous-air-pollutants
Data Source: https://data.ny.gov/Energy-Environment/Title-V-Emissions-Inventory-Beginning-2010/4ry5-tfin/

50 Largest Carbon Dioxide Emitters in NY State, 2013

The Division of Air Resources has compiled a listing of all NYS Title V facilities and the air pollutants emitted from those facilities, between years 2010 and 2013. While the data is now four years out of date, this graph gives you an idea of the 50 largest carbon dioxide emitters in the State of New York. https://data.ny.gov/Energy-Environment/Title-V-Emissions-Inventory-Beginning-2010/4ry5-tfin