Sunday, November 01, 2015

To monitor and measure the Longwood and the Shortwood of it

Dear Editor:

As described in a July Fenway News article and a Globe piece,  the changes underway to the MATEP power plant bear greater scrutiny. Installation of new gas turbines at the MATEP facility is being rushed with inadequate consideration for air quality in densely populated Mission Hill, Fenway and Brookline.

The community fought hard for fairness and justice when this MATEP power plant was conceived in the 1970s. Here, we live with immense congestion and hazardous particulates from autos. The future does not promise less population density, as big residential projects are underway in close proximity to the facility.

It's finely scrubbed output does in fact add particulates to our already murky part of the sky. Additional turbines firing natural gas with Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel as a backup will add more. Much has changed since the 1970s' struggle versus MATEP, not the least of which was the sale of the former Harvard trust to NStar and then to Veolia Energy North America. One of the area hospital has even raised the specter of building its own, additional power plant if MATEP/Veolia pricing is too high.

There is some irony in all this.

Research undertaken within MATEP's august borders enforces the notion that particulates in the city should be reduced, not increased. A Harvard study just this June suggested that present fine-particle pollution standards may be too loose, and has been increasing mortality in New England. Recent Beth Israel Deaconess/BU studies observing participants of the famed Framingham Heart Study suggest long-term exposure to even moderate air pollution can damage brain structure in middle-aged and older adults. Yet another study from the Harvard School of Public Health looked at exposure to high pollution levels during pregnancy and found such exposure may increase risk of having child with autism.

But irony is a luxury MATEP abutters can't afford.

The rush to approval is clear. The latest go-ahead was forged in darkness after a faux community meeting conveniently held when tremendous blizzard shut down the city in January. The large plant was misplaced when built. Today its output should be reduced not increased. - Jack Vaughan


Now I am going to looks at it from a different lens...

When I first got to Mission Hill, the neighborhood was in the midst of some serious political action. In the 60s, the whole back of the hill had been purchased and demolished by The New England Baptist Hospital which, together with the Lahey Clinic, then on Comm. Ave, had snapped up properties with an eye toward building a world class (with heliports,etc, for Saudi princes and so-on) medical center, maybe on par with that which already existed nearby on Longwood Ave.

My landlord at the time was something of a speculator, and together with a partner owned over 25 houses on the hill, waiting, I suppose, to cash in. Baptist sat atop the hill. Community meetings, city council meetings, demonstrations were always underway.  The whole works. The goal: to stop Harvard and its ilk from crossing from the north Huntington Ave and from the east Tremont St., and to destroy the neighborhood. They fought an incursion from the south too in the form of I-85. The highway was never built, and neither was the new world class health center.  Harvard Medical and its allies agreed to stay where they were.

They did build a massive power plant on Brookline Ave. This was fought by the community.  But it happened. The project had a co-generation aspect to it, it had high-level cleaning of output (first diesel, more recently Natural gas) – but the placement seemed wrong. At morning and evening rush hour there are more cars streaming through the area than in any other neighborhood in Boston, I'd reckon. So why put a power plant in that spot? They had their reasons, of course. Now they want to increase the output at the plants. Now I still say, this is the wrong place.

It seems to me that carbon particulates, even if they are incremental additions to the other sources, are a bad thing. One can find info that warns against the particulates, carbon and other. One cant find very good measures of the amount of carbon specifically, or particulates generally in the air in Mission Hill, and, in the age of the Maker movement, I wonder why not. I was assured in a public meeting that the vendor of the power plant equipment will ensure that the new equipment will meet standards – sounds like German engineering. I'd like to have my own Mission Hillbilly test system.

But looking into this test system idea you find pathway blocking stones. Yes it would be doable, and for less than $10,000, maybe less than $1,000, as a student, for example, project. But, after review by my friend Dan Romanchik, the important bottom line would be that THE INFO WOULD JUST BE DATA. To have something that would be objectively conclusive would require strict adherence to EPA PM2 Reqs. "Read: Expensive"

No comments:

Featured Post

Backporch Poesy June 2016

Reading from three favorite poetry anthologies on the back porch on June 17 (anniversary of Watergate breakin!) The three tomes are 1-Th...