December 2, 2011

Pollution Modeling Shows Holland at Risk from Toxic Emissions

December 2, 2011

Pollution Modeling Shows Holland at Risk from Toxic Emissions

Sulfur dioxide plume from the coal-fired James DeYoung plant looms over neighborhoods, puts community health at risk

HOLLAND, MICHIGAN – Holland residents are at risk of unsafe exposure to dangerous sulfur dioxide, according to new air pollution modeling released by the Sierra Club today. With news of this model, health professionals and Holland residents rallied to show their concern over the health impacts of the local coal plant.  Sulfur dioxide, which is emitted in large quantities by the coal-fired James DeYoung plant, threatens the Holland community with asthma attacks, severe respiratory problems, lung disease and heart complications

The model can be viewed here
Download the factsheet here.

Gathered at the Herrick District Library Auditorium, the group unveiled a map of Holland that depicts the modeled pollution cloud threatening Holland’s most treasured areas – from the Macatawa lakeshore to the Historic District to Downtown 8th Street to Freedom Village. Outraged by the threat to air quality, the group called on the Holland Board of Public Works to protect Holland by supporting a sustainable, long-term energy plan that would move Holland beyond coal completely. The Holland Beyond Coal group has gathered over 1,300 signatures in support of this plan.

Guest speakers spotlighted coal’s harmful effects on public health, the environment and Holland community, while demanding clean energy alternatives at this critical time for Holland’s energy future.

“Every day, I work with individuals who are battling respiratory illnesses like asthma. The correlation between excess sulfur dioxide in the air and increased asthma rates is clear,” said Cristina Fugsleth, a respiratory therapist who has worked at Holland Hospital for more than 35 years. “As we can see today in this modeling, our coal plant is making us sick. We must act now to protect our air. Healthy air is essential to living a healthy life.”

Local residents Coley and Lisa Brown shared their concerns after moving to Holland this year to settle down in America’s second happiest city. “I am in that category of ‘high risk’ for heart issues and I get concerned for my health” stated Coley Brown, “Imagine my shock when I recently discovered that there is a plan to expand the coal plant that is currently already making me sick. I thought, not in my town. I breathe this air.”

Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection agency establishes National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for pollutants such as sulfur dioxide that harm public health. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to revisit ambient standards for pollutants such as sulfur dioxide every five years to ensure the levels keep up with the best science regarding the impact of air pollution on public health. In June 2010, EPA finalized a standard for sulfur dioxide setting a ceiling for ambient concentrations of the pollutant on a 1-hour basis to protect against short-term spikes in SO2 pollution, which EPA found can have an adverse effect on at-risk populations such as children and the elderly during spikes in pollution in intervals as short as 5 minutes.

Following EPA’s modeling protocols for this new standard, Sierra Club discovered that the James De Young plant threatens Holland with emissions that are 3.5 times the public-health based ambient standard.

The air quality model was completed by Wingra Engineering, S.C., an independent environmental engineering consultation firm whose clients include manufacturing plants, electrical utilities, and environmental advocacy groups.