Social Justice and Air Quality: add them to the Comp Plan / Facebook post, Whatcom Hawk, Wendy Harris

readers guide comp plan.jpg1 hr  December 28, 2015  Wendy Harris

I can think of two important goals that I would like to see added to the Comp. Plan: Social Justice and Air Quality. Those are both things are not being adequately addressed, and which the county has the ability to affect.

Social justice issues are common in our urban areas where lower income housing is being built near freeways, despite new and growing science establishing diesel exhaust as the primary risk of cancer for residents in Puget Sound, and for Puget Sound residents to be at higher risks that the general population nationally. There is more traffic and noise and light pollution, generally, in lower income neighborhoods, fewer parks and amenities, etc. How about considering things like greater standards for construction or increased forms of mitigation in the form of air filtration systems, or the use of heat pumps, which allow windows to be kept closed on days when summer fires are burning?

And social justice issues also exist in the rural areas with regard to seasonal workers and their work conditions in agricultural fields, where they are exposed to toxic fumes and chemicals that greatly increase the risk of cancer and respiratory illness. There are problems with exposure to manure spraying, which carries the risk of pathogenic disease.

And Air Quality? We know that our local NWCAA is not particularly aggressive. New studies have confirmed the danger and damage that is caused by wood smoke. How about some air flow studies so we can determine where and who is being affected by large wood pile burnings in the rural areas, how this impacts things like water quality and its impacts on our wildlife? Does anyone have the political will to end really stupid things like outdoor backyard fire pits? What could be worse than allowing the release of a known carcinogen and dangerous lung irritant just for recreation? Anyone aware that it now believed that many heart attacks are triggered by air quality issues?

And of course, all of this brings up the issue of the ever increasing train traffic, which is a large source of diesel exhaust, not to mention coal dust. And this is before considering the public safety issues raised by exploding oil trains. Should we really be building in the blast zone? If so, how far away? In Blaine, new houses were built where the railroad track was the boundary for the backyard, and the backyard was not that big.


Read Wendy’s post on the Whatcom Hawk Facebook page here.

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