Durbin calls for air pollution test

By:  Greg Skinner
Chicago Journal

Metra this week announced plans to form a task force to investigate claims of polluted air first reported in a Chicago Tribune investigative piece.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) Monday challenged the heads of four federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to review the Tribune’s findings that commuters and rail workers might be exposed to “high levels” of Diesel soot at Chicago’s Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center.

“People are breathing more than half their daily dose of soot pollution while commuting no matter how they get to work,” said Joel J. Africk, President of the Respiratory Health Association.

Africk questioned the logic of an infrastructure that endangers the repertory health of people trying to be “green.”

“I’m asking the EPA and its trained professionals to conduct a fully scientific analysis of the air quality on these passenger trains in order to determine if the Tribune’s disconcerting findings are accurate,” Durbin said Monday.

Metra Tuesday said they invited worker representatives, Amtrak, federal agencies and state agencies to a “summit” to craft the rail’s response to the Tribune report. They have also hired Chicago based Carnow, Conibear & Associates to test air quality.

Though they don’t have money to pay for a fix, Metra said Ventilation systems in the stations and on the trains will be reviewed along with possible changes to fuels and exhaust systems

“We take this issue very seriously,” Tuesday Acting Executive Director Bill Tupper said through a press release. “We have done testing in the past addressing the issue of locomotive emissions. However, we must now come together to reassess what work has been done regarding this issue and collectively determine meaningful and tangible solutions as we go forward. This is a multifaceted issue in which we all have an interest.”