Lackawanna begins its own air monitoring

Lackawanna Begins Its Own Air Monitoring

LACKAWANNA, NY - The City of Lackawanna has installed several air monitoring devices on Lincoln Avenue, outside the former Bethlehem Steel site, in an effort to get more air quality test results.

This effort pairs with what the state Department of Environmental Conservation has already been doing in monitoring the air. But, the DEC is not being very transparent in explaining what they're doing.

"To me it smells like burnt plastic, it's bad but not as bad as it was in the beginning," said Rose Caber, who evacuated last week when the site was a raging inferno, and when the City of Lackawanna declared a state of emergency. The lingering stench from the site still bothers her.

"I try not to be out here. I try to either stay away or stay in the house or whatever," Caber said.

Many residents here have concerns about the air quality, what they breathed in during the fire and what they continue to breathe in as demolition continues.

"And I'm just concerned as they're knocking it down, the dust is kicking up and the particles are going in the air and the wind is going our way," said Suzanne Trale, another resident.

According to the DEC, which has been doing air monitoring, the air quality as of Friday returned back to normal.

This was after on Wednesday, the DEC set up two air monitoring sites: one on Electric Avenue and one on Madison Avenue in Lackawanna, which were chosen based on wind direction. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also set up air quality monitors in parts of the Lackawanna Community. 

The DEC says the plume from the fire moved over the Madison Ave monitor Thursday afternoon and evening. It then moved east and traveled over the Electric Ave monitor early Friday. 

During these times, Particulate Matter (PM) concentrations were in the hazardous Air Quality Index category, the DEC says. Fine particulate matter are a concern to people's health when levels are high, especially those with health issues. 

However, of additional concern are Volatile Organic Compounds in the air, which the DEC says it needs more "extensive lab work" to analyze samples before releasing results. They also say as soon as they have results, they will post them here: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/108370.html. 

So, have there been any major changes to the air quality? That's something we wanted to ask DEC officials, but the agency didn't provide anyone for an interview.

REPORTER: What do you want to hear from those in charge of the air monitoring?

"I want to hear something, I haven't heard really much of anything," Trale said.

2 On Your Side also wanted to know where air monitors, installed last week in Bethlehem Park, have gone. We went back to those locations and didn't find them -- have they been moved to other locations? The DEC hasn't said.

Lackawanna's mayor Geoff Szymanski says the city wants more air monitoring data and that's why more devices were rented on Monday. As for what's happening on the old Bethlehem Steel site, Szymanski said, "as we continue to move plates aside we keep getting more fires so the fire department is still fighting hotspots and could possibly be fighting it for the next two weeks."

Residents just want things to return back to normal.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, investigators remain on scene and officials say they could be here all week. And all the rubble remains here -- there's still isn't a plan for what to do with all the rubble.


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