A view of Magnolia Avenue and Railroad Avenue in New Cassel...

A view of Magnolia Avenue and Railroad Avenue in New Cassel on Tuesday, where high levels of pollutants were found at times in a state study. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

State environmental officials are conducting a yearlong air pollution study looking at "disadvantaged" communities in Nassau County for potential sources and hot spots.

The study by the Department of Environmental Conservation, which started in September, is looking at 10 geographic areas statewide, including New York City and, on Long Island, in Hempstead, New Cassel, Uniondale, Roosevelt and Westbury.

The study is part of the New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which seeks to reduce the state’s greenhouse gases 40% by 2030.

DEC officials are focusing on the Hempstead area and surrounding communities found to have high pollution burdens from such sources as trucks, heavy traffic on parkways and industrial businesses in communities.

The DEC has identified what it calls disadvantaged communities by 45 different levels of criteria, including low-income and minority communities and those in proximity to industrial sites that could lead to high pollutants.

The department contracted with a vendor with a fleet of vehicles equipped with air sensors to monitor air pollution on area streets, catching split-second air pollutant readings of greenhouse gases, black carbon soot and carbon monoxide and dioxide levels.

The study does not characterize exposure or risks to populations, said Dirk Felton, a DEC research scientist.

“These are screening assessments to look for sources. It’s not a good characterization of what people are generally exposed to,” said research scientist Randi Walker. “This was never an effort to equate to a health outcome. Our goal is to look for disproportionate burdens. If we find those burdens and address those, the outcome should be improved air quality for everybody.”

Preliminary data focused on certain hot spots in New Cassel, including readings in an industrial area on Magnolia Avenue. The readings indicated potential hot spots, at times reading levels 20 times higher than normal, officials said.

The majority of the readings were at normal levels, with 150 seconds out of 700,000 seconds measured with levels above 10 millionths of a gram per cubic meter. DEC officials said they will use that data to find repeated hot spots to try to determine a source.

The readings on Magnolia Avenue were generally confined to south of the railroad tracks near industrial businesses and pollutant readings and were not generally located near homes past a noise barrier north of the railroad tracks. The railroad was not determined to be an immediate source of any pollutants.

Nassau County Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) said the county partnered with North Hempstead officials to add New Cassel to the study due to its large swath of industrial businesses.

“We know we have a high concentration of industries in that area presenting concerns from high levels of dust and from cement-crushing facilities to waste transfer stations. We wanted to make sure the air quality for our residents and community is as clean as possible,” Bynoe said. “It’s not lost on me that studies around the country have shown pollutants near low-income areas resulting in health conditions with respiratory illnesses.”

Bynoe said she worked with the Nassau IDA to make a 2020 policy change that would provide tax benefits to encourage high-polluting businesses to make improvements.

North Hempstead Councilman Robert Troiano said he asked to review the DEC report after the town took action to require certain rock-crushing businesses to enclose operations. Town officials are voting March 14 on a resolution that would allow the town to rescind certificates of occupancy from businesses that may pose a health and safety hazard.

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