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Placer County Air Pollution Control District Releases Findings on Roseville Rail Yard Air Quality Study

For immediate release

October 14, 2004 - Auburn, CA

The Placer County Air Pollution Control District today released findings of a study conducted by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) regarding airborne particulate matter emissions from diesel-fueled locomotives at the Union Pacific J.R. Davis Yard located in Roseville, California. The study is based upon locomotive emissions activity that occurred there from 1999 to 2000.

The computer modeling study was conducted by the California Air Resources Board at the request of the Placer County Air Pollution Control District in response to area residents' concerns and the identification by ARB of diesel particulate matter as a 'toxic air contaminant.' The Union Pacific Railroad Company (UPRR) assisted in the study by providing extensive information on facility operations and emissions.

The study results indicate there are elevated concentrations of diesel particulate matter and associated cancer risk impacting a large area surrounding the rail yard. This conclusion is typical for large transportation facilities such as rail yards, ports and major freeway corridors.

"The magnitude of the risk, general location of the risk and the size of the area impacted varies depending on the modeling assumptions used. The risk is based upon an assumed constant exposure over a 70-year period," said Tom Christofk, Air Pollution Control Officer, Placer County Air Pollution Control District.

"The District requested this study on behalf of Placer County residents to ascertain the levels of diesel emissions from the rail yard and their relative impact," Christofk stated. "We will use this study to continue working with UPRR on ways to reduce diesel emissions from the rail yard." The District also plans to develop an air-monitoring program, and may request further health analysis.

The District has been in discussions with UPRR regarding an emission reduction plan, but does not have a binding agreement in place for emission reduction targets.

The results of this study were calculated, analyzed and prepared as a Health Risk Assessment report and submitted to the Placer County Air Pollution Control District. The study is based on computer modeling and did not include any on-site air quality monitoring or real-time air quality measurements at the rail yard.

Results from the ARB study include:

  • About 25 tons of diesel particulate matter emissions came from locomotive operations at the yard in 2000.
  • Moving locomotives account for about 50 percent of these emissions, idling locomotives account for about 45 percent and locomotive testing accounts for about five percent.
  • There is a varying degree of elevated cancer risk associated with the emissions from the rail yard depending on length of exposure and proximity to the yard.

"Placer County Health and Human Services continues to work closely with state public health experts to evaluate the potential health impacts of the air pollution modeling study of the Union Pacific Rail Yard recently conducted by the California Air Resources Board," stated Placer County Health Officer Richard J. Burton, M.D., M.P.H. "While the study indicates increased levels of particulate matter air pollution in the air surrounding the rail yard in Roseville, with some exceptions, the general levels of air pollution and resulting health impacts are less than or the same as what is found in most of California's major urban areas."

Dr. Burton noted that the study indicates an elevated cancer risk, relative to the existing background risks from air pollution, due to long-term exposure to diesel engine exhaust from the rail yard; and that the Placer County Air Pollution Control District is working with Union Pacific Railroad to reduce the exposure and resulting risks.

According to Dr. Burton, reducing emissions from the facility is the most effective way to protect public health. "There are no practical personal protective measures recommended for healthy individuals," noted Dr. Burton. "Individuals with unique sensitivities such as those with chronic lung disease or asthma may want to consider indoor air filtering systems such as those described on the California Air Resources Board web site." 

He also noted that in addition to cancer risks from diesel particulate matter, there are non-cancer health effects of particulate matter air pollution including exacerbations of existing heart and lung disease. Following consultation with the California Department Heath Services and the California

Environmental Protection Agency, Dr. Burton suggests that residents continue to use routine air pollution Air Quality Index advisories as their guide for

understanding potential health impacts of an immediate nature (such as asthma attacks) related to air pollution.

The J.R. Davis Rail Yard has been operating in Roseville since 1905. The yard occupies about 950 acres, on a one-quarter mile wide by four-mile long strip of land that parallels Interstate 80. Approximately two-thirds of the rail yard is located in Placer County with the remaining one-third in Sacramento County.

About 31,000 locomotives visited the rail yard in 2000. Another 15,000 locomotives used the Northside Tracks (pass-through trains) during this same period. While Union Pacific has the youngest locomotive fleet in North America, locomotives have very large diesel-fueled engines that can last about 30 to 40 years. The U.S. EPA has imposed new emissions rules that will require about a two-thirds reduction in locomotive emissions in the future.

"Rail transportation is by far the most environmentally friendly method of efficiently transporting large amounts of freight across America," said Robert Grimaila, Sr. Assistant Vice President; Safety, Environmental and Security Practices for Union Pacific. "Over the past several years, Union Pacific has made significant strides in reducing emissions throughout our system. With improved technology and successful pilot programs, we believe we have been able to reduce emissions at our J.R. Davis Yard by about 15 percent since 2000. We intend to work closely with Tom Christofk and his colleagues at the Placer County Air Pollution Control District to continue this progress."

The Placer County Air Pollution Control District will conduct two public meetings about the study results. Staff from the California Air Resources Board and Union Pacific Railroad Company will join in presenting information and answering questions during these public meetings:

  • Saturday, October 16, 2004 - 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Placer County Fairgrounds - Lauppe Hall (800 All American City, Roseville)

  • Monday, October 18, 2004 - 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Placer County Fairgrounds - Lauppe Hall (800 All American City, Roseville)