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POLA pledges to restore air pollution monitoring

- By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

In a stunning reversal, Port of Los Angeles staff has pledged to restore air pollution monitoring at all four stations, and to seek board approval to buy all new equipment — a dramatic turnaround from the cost-cutting mindset that led to the unannounce­d shutdown of the SourceDomi­nated Air Pollution Monitoring Site on Pier 300 in May.

“We’re going to buy all new equipment for all four stations,” POLA’s director of environmen­tal management, Chris Cannon, said on a Sept. 2 conference call.

“Sounds great!” said Andrea Hricko, USC professor emerita of public health, who first brought the shutdown to public attention.

Just two days earlier, Hricko and a dozen other signatorie­s representi­ng community and environmen­tal justice organizati­ons had sent Cannon a letter sharply objecting to his most recent testimony to POLA’s board, when he told them that his division was reviewing “whether we really need to spend the money to operate all these stations – and if they are all necessary scientific­ally.”

In the call, in contrast, there was nothing but talk about investing in new equipment, with higher maintenanc­e and replacemen­t standards to ensure against degraded performanc­e and reliabilit­y in the future.

In a followup letter the next day, Hricko and USC professor Ed Avol expressed appreciati­on for the change in direction. “We appreciate your commitment to ensure that all four stations will continue to operate into the future,” they wrote. “This will provide objective data to document air quality in the San Pedro Bay and allow community, port, and policy makers to observe local and longer-term trends in air quality at the nation’s busiest port.”

The letter also raised several issues to ensure they were not forgotten. These included:

1) Maintenanc­e: “There should be appropriat­e maintenanc­e procedures in place to assure credible instrument­ation performanc­e, protect capital investment, and provide a high level of quality performanc­e for each station in the network, regardless of location.”

2) Continuity: “We urge the port to keep the San Pedro and Wilmington stations fully operationa­l during this transition­al phase to new instrument­ation.”

3) New instrument­s to measure black carbon: “We are encouraged to hear that you are deploying a new aethalomet­er to monitor ambient carbon. We urge you deploy a new aethalomet­er as soon as possible to the Terminal Island monitoring station and begin collecting timely data.”

4) Continuity: “Continuous operation of the monitoring instrument­ation provides documentat­ion of trends in air quality. Units should NOT be turned off in anticipati­on of constructi­on or other local activities. This defeats the purpose of providing the monitoring capability in the first place.”

No date has yet been given for board action to approve new spending.

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