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November 28, 2000

Mobile County Air Quality Study Moves One Step Closer to Reality

Task Force Issued RFP for Air Quality Study and Set Deadline for Submission of Proposals

by Edmund Tsang

After more than two years of lobbying by environmentalists, a study to assess the air quality of Mobile County is one step closer to reality. The task force, consisting of public and private participants, issued on November 3 a Request For Proposal (RFP) and set a deadline of 5 p.m. December 4, 2000 to receive proposals. The RFP calls for a contractor to perform air-quality monitoring for at least one year and modeling of air-dispersion and population-exposure, and to facilitate the development of community expectations of the studyís results.

Air Quality Monitoring

The air-quality-monitoring portion of the study calls for the contractor to place air-sampling stations in five locations in Mobile County, with air sampling to take place at all stations once each five-to-eight day period for 24 hours and over a period of not less than one year. The study calls for an expanded list of air pollutants that will be monitored in addition to the present list of just four pollutants (particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, ozone and acid rain) monitored by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). In the proposed study, the air samples collected will be analyzed for the presence of 39 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 26 metallic and elemental pollutants. Many of these pollutants were either reported in the latest EPA Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) of Mobile County (1998) and/or detected in the one-time air-quality monitoring conducted in Prichard in January 1999. According to the 1999 Prichard study, which was based on a one-day air sampling, "The samples taken during this study indicates the wide-ranging presence of air pollutants in and around east Prichard, Alabama and area locations. Especially noteworthy is the presence of chlorinated hydrocarbons and aromatic hydrocarbons in all samples, including the control locations. The reported also stated that "in addition to the sampling results and analyses presented above, it is also important to note that the Cumulative Exposure Project data for areas in and around the City of Prichard indicate that chemicals other than VOCs may be present at levels of potential concern."

Three of the five monitoring stations will be placed in locations selected to represent a background site, a population density site, and a maximum population exposure site, with the remaining two sites placed near the two industrialized regions in the northern and southern parts of the county.

The region identified in the RFP for the background site is bounded by Airport Boulevard on the north, Schillinger Road on the east, Old Pascagoula Road on the South, and the Mississippi state line. This area was chosen to "represent the regional concentration of pollutants, exclusive of major stationary and mobile source contribution within the County." The RFP defines the Population Density Site as an area "located in the area bounded by Interstate Highways 10, 65, and 165," and the Maximum Population Exposure Site to be "located inside or near the fenced area containing ADEMíS existing Chickasaw air monitoring site." The RFP specifies that one of the Stationary Source Evaluation sites will be located between Mount Vernon and Creola in the northern portion of the County, and the other in or near Theodore in the south.

Air Dispersion & Population Exposure Modeling

The RFP specifies that the contractor will use EPAís air-quality model -- the Assessment System for Population Exposure Nationwide (ASPEN) -- to determine air dispersion and population exposure in Mobile County. The model will take into consideration emission source distributions both in time and in space, as well as meteorological effects, to characterize the concentration patterns of pollutants within Mobile County, using a grid size of two kilometers by two kilometers, and to identify the communities with the pollutant concentrations of greatest concern.

Information about automobile emissions and patterns of vehicle miles traveled will be considered in conjunction with other sources in the computer modeling, which includes railroads, aircraft, commercial marine vessels, other non-road mobile sources, manufacturing area sources, and non-manufacturing area sources. Results from the computer model will be compared with the seasonal average monitored data for those pollutants monitored during the modeling period. Depending on whether EPAís Hazardous Air Pollution Exposure Model is made available for public use by the time of the study, it will be included in the overall modeling strategy to predict inhalation exposure for Mobile County.

Community Based Expectations Facilitation

The RFP states that "a key component of the Mobile Count Air Quality Study is the development of community expectations relating to the quality of the air," and identifies "defining principles of the development of community-based standards." These standards include the stipulation to "work collectively with a full range of stakeholders through effective partnerships; integrate environmental, economic, and social objectives and foster local stewardship of all community resources," and "develop a set of expectations that can be used to develop non-regulatory driven improvements."

The RFP states that the Task Force responsible for the air quality study will "create a subcommittee that will meet while the data [are] being collected for the air quality study. The subcommittee will develop the community-based expectations prior to the completion of the air study and without data from the air study while it is ongoing."

The RFP requires the contractor to draft a set of operating protocols for the subcommittee to consider regarding attendance, proxies, alternates, and replacements of subcommittee members, whether decisions will be made by vote or consensus, including the issues of a memberís not being present or represented when a decision is made; whether members will or must support all subcommittee decisions; and backtracking or re-opening issues that have previously been decided. The contractor will develop a set of clear, measurable goals for the subcommittee as well as a schedule that is consistent with the overall project schedule, and provide meeting facilitation support.

The contractor is also required to provide educational and information materials to the subcommittee members, including such topics as risk assessment, including exposure assessment; toxicological information of those pollutants believed to be present in Mobile County air; public policy, pollution control technologies and strategies; and environmental, economic, and risk/benefit information for relevant source categories, as available from published studies, including regulatory impact assessments.


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