Assessing Impacts on Public Health
Public Statement by MAPC Regarding Updated Weymouth Air Quality Data
May 21, 2019 - The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) has been actively following the current appeal process of the air quality permit for the proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth. We have recently learned, as have others, about the additional air quality data (based on 2018 air sampling) that MassDEP shared last Thursday. Based on our initial review, the report appears to include new data points, primarily regarding air toxics.
If the new data show that current levels of toxins are already above health protective thresholds, we believe the air quality permit for the proposed station must be reconsidered. Although our state's current permit approval process focuses mainly on the contribution of single sources of emissions (in this case, emissions from the proposed natural gas compressor), MAPC believes that we need to start elevating our standards to be based on cumulative impacts of both current pollution burdens plus emissions from new sources.
We have previously stated our opposition to the proposed station due to potential public safety risks and threats to our region's climate resiliency. If the new data indicate air quality concerns that already exceed health protective limits, the permit process should immediately pause, during which time we encourage the regulatory authorities to consider: a) the cumulative load of toxics, including both current levels plus those that arise from new sources; b) potential public safety impacts on the surrounding communities, in the event that the compressor and surrounding infrastructure fail to operate according to industry standards; and c) the overall impact of the compressor on greenhouse gas emissions, and the Commonwealth's ability to achieve its goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act.
Finally, the release of the new air quality data from MassDEP suggests that more information could have been made available during the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) conducted by MAPC. All HIAs are based on a snapshot of information provided at the time the HIA is drafted, and therefore, the conclusions of any HIA cannot be assumed to hold if new information comes forth, particularly new data that may suggest an increase in risks to people's health.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) collaborated to prepare a health impact assessment (HIA) of a proposed natural gas compressor station in the Town of Weymouth, Massachusetts. The station was proposed as part of a private-sector energy infrastructure investment plan and is subject to federal and state approvals, including an air quality permit.
The HIA was a systematic process to determine:
- The potential health effects of a proposed change to the Fore River area
- What can help create the healthiest outcomes in relation to the proposed changes
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) facilitated the HIA and the community engagement process that is part of the assessment. The HIA was completed in January 2019. Click here to view the HIA and related documents.
The Weymouth Compressor Station HIA report is now available. View it at the link below.