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By October 23, 2019 No Comments

The City of Boston is serious about air quality. Maintaining a healthy environment and a healthy populace requires a commitment from everyone – from simple daily things we can all do, to a major diesel overhaul at the Conley Container Terminal.

This past winter, the Conley Container Terminal in South Boston received over $330,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Diesel Emissions Reductions Act (DERA) to update five of its large gantry cranes with engines that will significantly decrease diesel emissions at the facility.

This is big news for Boston, and an example of large scale changes being made to support good air quality in the Hub. Maintaining healthy air quality is a top priority for the City of Boston, but what can people do in their everyday lives to ensure healthy air quality in their neighborhoods?

Perspectives from the Department of Environment, Energy, and Open Space

I sat down with Haidee Janak, Climate Program Manager for the City of Boston’s Environment Department, and asked her what it would look like if every Bostonian engaged in the effort to maintain healthy air quality in the city. Haidee is the electric vehicle liaison for the City, enforces noise and air pollution regulations, oversees annual greenhouse gas inventories, and leads the Idle-Free Boston initiative. She is also the Parking Freeze Program Manager.

What do you wish people knew about air quality?

I think a lot of people aren’t aware that there is a law against excessive idling that aims to improve our air quality. And I wish more people knew how great it can be to get somewhere in a way that’s not alone in your personal vehicle!  And it’s our job as a city to provide other options – like complete streets that don’t just cater to cars, and other neighborhood improvements.

What are the biggest air quality challenges that Boston faces?

In a large city like Boston, in the midst of a current growth spurt and in which the population doubles every weekday as workers stream in, vehicles, including construction vehicles, are the biggest factor when it comes to air pollution. Diesel engines in large vehicles like buses and delivery trucks contribute a lot of harmful emissions. That’s why the City passed a diesel retrofit ordinance last year [which requires all pre-2007 vehicles owned by the City or used by its contractors to be retrofitted with more effective emissions-reduction equipment], and why we encourage people to turn off their engines when they pull over through the Idle-Free Boston initiative.

If you could get every Bostonian to do one thing to improve air quality, what would it be?

Get involved in community groups that work to improve the quality of air in your neighborhood; When driving, don’t idle; and think about whether you really need to drive, and don’t drive if you don’t need to!

A major improvement on the waterfront

While the EPA designates the air in Boston to be healthy, steps can always be taken to make it even better. An example of this kind of improvement project recently happened at the Conley Container Terminal (CCT) in South Boston.

The CCT is a major hub for international trade. The volume of cargo arriving on ships from as far away as Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean is so great that last year the 100 acre facility moved 31 shipping containers per hour – and expects that volume to increase this year. Not an expert on cargo shipping statistics? Don’t worry. Here’s why the CCT matters so much to Boston, its environment, and why a change it’s making is big news for all of us.

Boston is the 36th largest port in the United States by tons of cargo received annually, and Conley is its largest terminal. The CCT is a huge part of Boston’s economy as well as a major employer. It also needs to use heavy, largely diesel-fueled equipment for much of its operations. This winter, the CCT received over $330,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Diesel Emissions Reductions Act (DERA) to update five of its large gantry cranes with engines that will decrease diesel emissions at the facility.

The improvement project at the Conley facility will reduce the amount of diesel fumes produced at the terminal, improve air quality, and create a healthier environment for the people of South Boston. The EPA expects the improvement project to reduce nitrous oxide emissions by 7.62 tons, particulate matter by 0.06 tons, and carbon dioxide by 155.4 tons. To provide some perspective, that’s equivalent to the air quality value of planting 3,615 trees. It will also conserve 2,800 gallons of diesel fuel per year. That’s the amount of diesel fuel a fully loaded 18-wheeler would consume driving across the country more than five and a half times.

The improvement project at the Conley Container Terminal is just one example of steps being taken in Boston to support a healthy environment and a healthy population. Explore our resources to see what you can do to to support healthy air quality in Boston.