2013-03-01 / Community

City Ends Debris Burning

The City has suspended the burning of trees and other debris from Hurricane Sandy after repeated problems with smoke and high air pollution levels.

This debris was being burned at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.

In December, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) allowed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct open-air burning even though there is a state ban on the process.

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) advised at the time that it would not enforce the ban for this operation.

“The Army Corps, DEC, and DEP all acted in the interest of expedience, without due consideration for public health and safety,” said Joel Kupferman, Esq., the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project’s executive director in a media release.

The incineration process was set to continue into April but operations ceased on February 14th due to high smoke and pollution levels detected in the air.

The DEP and DEC requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers look into options that do not include burning, such as chipping the wood and using it for mulch.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set up air monitors and found that the open air burners exceeded health-based national ambient air quality standards for fine particulate matter on five different days between December 28th and February 7th.

“These air curtain burners are little more than dumpsters with fans. The city officials wanted to believe they would work, despite evidence to the contrary, and the Army Corps didn’t want to change its practices. We hope that a lesson has been learned here,” said Laura Haight, a senior environmental associate with NYELJP.

NYELJP, along with the American Lung Association of the Northeast, the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), and the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter wrote a letter to the DEP asking them to halt the operation and switch to other methods.

EPA was praised for conducting air monitoring in the area.

“EPA’s efforts to keep the public informed about the burning operations at Floyd Bennett Field, monitor their impact on air quality, and make all data public stands in stark contrast to the DEP,” Kupferman said.

“We’ve had to send multiple Freedom of Information Act requests to access DEP’s monitoring data, and still have not received most of it.”

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