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Campaign to fight diesel pollution on Southside picks up

Submitted on Tue, 07/10/2007 – 15:23.
Story by Jennet Posey

Residents of the South Chicago neighborhood may be suffering from the effects of diesel pollution, prompting some local groups to press the Illinois General Assembly to take action.

Illinois Campaign to Clean up Diesel Pollution, Centro Comunitario Juan Diego, Southeast Environmental Task Force and Healthy Southeast Chicago want Southside residents to pressure state lawmakers to pass a clean air bill, SB0268. The legislation would provide funding to reduce pollution in the environment.

The problem of diesel pollution begins with the exhaust created by trucks, buses and construction equipment. This exhaust has been known to cause a variety of diseases, including lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks and strokes.

According to Cecile Carroll of Illinois Campaign to Clean up Diesel Pollution, this pollution can cause developmental delays in children. Children are more susceptible to diesel pollution, Carroll says, because they breathe more air than adults, leading to permanent damage of their still developing lungs.

The effort – coordinated by the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago and Citizen Action/Illinois, has targeted South Chicago residents because they live in an industrial area and may be unaware that they’re suffering from the effects of diesel pollution. The first community workshop for the South Chicago neighborhood was held June 27th.

“[We’re] trying to get people informed about this topic to pressure lawmakers and bring awareness to the public about diesel pollution,” says Carroll.

Dianh Ramirez, executive director for Healthy Southeast Chicago, is helping lead the neighborhood effort to build support among residents for the clean air bill.

“It’s just amazing what we don’t see or know,” says Ramirez, a South Chicago resident.

Ramirez says her neighborhood is a transportation hub; everyday the area is exposed to exhaust from diesel-powered vehicles on the Chicago Skyway, Metra and other rail trains, ships, buses and trucks that pass though the community on their way to Northwest Indiana.

And, Ramirez adds, there’s an area where freight trains are parked. “Its huge,” says Ramirez. “There’s miles of them.”

The supporters for SB0268 say the problem can be fixed, but it would cost each diesel engine-powered vehicle at least $2,000 to $4,000 and each train engine at least $10,000. Supporters of the bill say attaching a diesel particulate filter, also known as a retro fit, would reduce the pollution from the vehicles by at least 90 percent.

Gregory Morris of the Southeast Environmental Taskforce has been working to get federal money to assist companies and schools with installing clean diesel technology.

Morris suggests the filters be used along with clean diesel oil also known as ULSD. This form of diesel is renewable unlike regular diesel fuel and can be made from vegetable oil.

“The fuel and the filter are extremely efficient,” says Morris, noting that the use of both the fuel and filter can reduce diesel pollution by 90 to 99 percent.

Anna Frostic of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago is also part of the campaign.

“We’re working with the campaign coalition to raise public awareness,” says Frostic.

Advocates say the health of the community is what drives them and they want to help open the eyes of residents who may not realize why they’re having problems breathing. It’s the residents, they say, who can get lawmakers to take action.

“The main factor of the matter is that it’s not a priority for people,” says Carroll.

Eco & Environment Mind & Body Public South Side
healthy southeast chicago illinois legislature pollution southeast environmental taskforce

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