Statement Of Gerald Gardner
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
April 23, 2003
I live in Hazelwood, a neighborhood about a mile from here. It used to have 6000 people and now it is a little more than 3000. It is a distressed area that is trying to make a comeback. It has 175 acres of empty flat land just 3 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. The people in Hazelwood are many old people, many children - working people just left which is why we are down to 3,000 - so we have lots of asthma, heart attack and all sorts of things like that. We also have the Hazelwood Initiative which is the civic group and as part of that we have the "nuisance committee." One of the things that we recommend to senior citizens is get involved in the "nuisance committee" because it gives them a motivation to be active. There are lots of nuisances in Hazelwood - drugs, abandoned cars, noise -- but at the present time, the worse nuisance is the proposal by the Turnpike Committee to put a turnpike through the residential neighborhood of Hazelwood. This will be a four-lane, high-speed, high-volume road. Now the "nuisance committee" is concerned about is getting an answer to this question: How far do you have to live from this turnpike to be safe? If you home is 50 feet, what about the noise and pollution? 100 feet? 200 feet? How far is safe? We have asked this question of as many agencies as we can - the Turnpike Commission, the contractors, the DEP, the EPA, we never get an answer. No one will say what is a safe distance. So we looked up studies to find answers to this. In California, they have made studies. They have measured the pollution as to what safe distances from freeways and what they find is very interesting. One of the worst contaminants are ultra-fine particles - and near beside the highway, they are very high. And you go away, it falls off exponentially because these particles coagulate and there are not as many. But according to those studies, if you are within 200 feet of those highways, then you have such elevated levels of these particulates, and that is considered a danger. So there is evidence that living close to a turnpike is dangerous. Now we have looked through this environmental impact statement, 1000 pages - we could not find a single page that had "health" on it, we couldn't find a single line that has the word "health" in it. So it is curious thing that these agencies, and I am not picking on the EPA, that they say they are out to sort of help people, and that the health of people is one of their main concerns and yet there is nothing in this impact statement about health. So the "nuisance committee" is trying to get answers. We write letters and we don't get answers to letters. We talk to people and they fluff you off. They don't give you a straight answer. Now it may be that these ultrafine particles, I believe they are less than one micron in diameter, are not measured by the EPA. But the EPA is looking for gaps in their research, so we would suggest that one of the gaps is that we really don't know how harmful these ultrafine particles are. Everyone who has looked at these studies says they are. We'd like the EPA to look into this. Then we'd like the EPA to pay a little attention to living beside high traffic highways at high speed. And finally, what I consider to be a health hazard is noise. No one is interested in noise. I don't know of a single regulation that controls noise, except for maybe a state one that nobody pays attention to. And again the question is not just pollution, how close can you live to one of those highways and not have the noise level above whatever the State standard is. Those are the sort of questions that have us going at the present time.