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Assessing Outdoor Air Near Schools

Charles Russell Elementary, Crabbe School, and Hatcher School - Ashland, KY and Whitwell Elementary School - Ironton, OH

Results and Analysis of EPA’s monitoring

EPA selected these schools for monitoring because they are located close to each other and near a coke plant and steel manufacturing activities, which are sources of air toxics emissions.   Computer models were used to determine which air toxics may be present at elevated levels in the outdoor air near these schools.  The models showed that pollutants associated with coke plant operations, including benzene, arsenic, and benzo(a)pyrene, could be present in the air around Charles Russell Elementary School, Crabbe School, Hatcher School, and Whitwell Elementary School.  The models also showed that manganese could be present in the air outside Whitwell Elementary School due to the nearby presence of steel manufacturing activities.  This information prompted EPA to test to see if the levels present may be of concern.  

Primary Findings

Levels of pollutants associated with coke plant emissions, including benzene, arsenic, and benzo(a)pyrene and associated longer-term concentration estimates at all four schools were not as high as suggested by the information available prior to monitoring.  Although they were below the levels of concern that had been suggested by the modeling information, these results indicate the influence of these pollutants of concern emitted from nearby sources.  However, since this monitoring occurred, one of the sources, the coke plant, officially closed June 23, 2011.

Levels of manganese and associated longer-term concentration estimates at Whitwell Elementary are below levels of concern.  They are not as high as suggested by the information available prior to monitoring.

Key Pollutants Monitored

Benzene.  Inhalation of benzene at high levels can affect the bone marrow and can cause anemia and leukemia.
Arsenic.  Inhalation of arsenic at high levels can damage the respiratory system and cause lung cancer.
Benzo(a)pyrene.  Inhalation of benzo(a) pyrene at high levels can cause cancer. Manganese. Inhalation may affect the nervous system if people are exposed to high levels.

Next Steps

Based on the analysis described here, EPA will not extend air toxics monitoring at this school. 

EPA remains concerned about emissions from sources of air toxics and continues to work to reduce those emissions across the country, through national rules and by providing information and suggestions to assist with reductions in local areas.

The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (KYDEP) and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) will continue to oversee industrial facilities in the area through air permits and other programs.

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Summary of Study Approach and Findings

Approach:

  • Monitors collected air samples from July 30, 2009 through April 2, 2010 at Charles Russell Elementary, Crabbe, and Hatcher Schools located in Ashland, KY and at Whitwell Elementary School located in Ironton, OH.
  • We posted individual air sample results on the websites for these schools  (Charles Russell Elementary School, Crabbe School, Hatcher School, and Whitwell Elementary School) throughout the monitoring period to keep your community informed during the monitoring period.
  • During the monitoring period, we evaluated the monitored concentrations to see if there was a concern from short-term exposures (up to several weeks).
  • When the monitoring was complete, we analyzed the results to see if there was a concern from long-term exposures (over a lifetime).
  • In addition, when the monitoring was complete, we evaluated all the air samples from the on-site monitors. We also evaluated information on wind speed and wind direction from a weather monitor at each of the schools, along with historical weather information and information about nearby sources of benzene, arsenic, benzo(a)pyrene, and manganese emissions.

Findings:

  • Our analysis also found that measured levels of pollutants associated with coke plant emissions, including benzene, arsenic, and benzo(a)pyrene, and associated long-term concentration estimates were not as high as was suggested by modeling information available prior to monitoring.  Although they were below the levels of concern for long-term exposure that had been suggested by the modeling, these results indicate the influence of these pollutants of concern emitted from nearby sources.  
  • Our analysis found that levels of manganese at Whitwell Elementary School (which has since closed) are below concentrations of concern; although they do indicate the influence from a source of manganese emissions.
  • The process to identify schools for monitoring relied on emissions estimates and other information.  Ambient air monitoring at the school allowed measurement of what was actually in the air.
  • Production at the nearby coke plant in 2009 was reduced to approximately half of recent levels.   Although production rose somewhat in 2010, the coke plant officially closed June 23, 2011.
  • Production at the steel manufacturing facility in 2009 was reduced about 15% from the 2008 levels (72% of capacity) which were typical levels for the facility.  Production rose again in 2010 (75% of capacity) which was slightly above the levels in 2008.
  • Based on the analysis summarized here, EPA will not extend air toxics monitoring at this school. 
  • Click here for additional information

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How We Analyzed the Information We Collected at these Schools

The analysis considered whether the information collected at these schools might raise concerns for the health of children or adults at these schools. We looked at the following types of information:

  • Measured benzene, arsenic, benzo(a)pyrene, and manganese concentrations and information on benzene, arsenic, benzo(a)pyrene, and manganese
  • Measured wind direction and wind speed at these schools
  • Information about nearby sources of benzene, arsenic, benzo(a)pyrene, and manganese emissions

Analysis of Measured Concentrations of the Coke Oven Pollutants:

Levels of the multiple pollutants associated with coke plant emissions, including benzene, arsenic, and benzo(a)pyrene were not as high as suggested by the information available prior to monitoring.  Although they were below the levels of significant concern that had been suggested by the modeling information, these results indicate the influence of these pollutants of concern emitted from nearby sources.

1a. Calculate the benzene average: We calculated the average of the benzene measurements (shown by the black diamond in the graph below). We compared this average to the long-term comparison level (thick line on the graph below). 

Result:  The average benzene level for the samples collected was below the long-term comparison level.  

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1b. Calculate a range for the benzene average: To account for varying air concentrations of benzene, we calculated a range around the average by estimating high and low values that the longer-term concentrations might reach using common statistical tools. We compared the highest point in the range (called the “upper bound”) to the long-term comparison level.

Result:  The high end of the range is lower than the comparison level.


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2a. Calculate the arsenic average: We calculated the average of the arsenic measurements (shown by the black diamond in the graph below). We compared this average to the long-term comparison level (thick line on the graph below).

Result:  The average arsenic level for the samples collected was below the long-term comparison level.  


2b. Calculate a range for the arsenic average: To account for varying air concentrations of arsenic, we calculated a range around the average by estimating high and low values that the longer-term concentrations might reach using common statistical tools. We compared the highest point in