Albany County launches ‘Uncommon Scents’ hotline

Troy Record | July 31, 2014 | Staff Report

albany >> Peter Iwanowicz, Chairman of the county’s Expert Advisory Committee on Crude Oil Safety, announced the launch of Albany County’s public reporting hotline in a campaign called “Uncommon Scents,” that provides a way for the public to report strong odors at local rail terminals and the Port of Albany.

Peter Iwanowicz, chair of the Albany County Crude Safety Committee, announces the launch of “Uncommon Scents,” a non-emergency hotline which the public can use to report strong odors from rail cars carrying crude oil, during a press conference at the county’s offices in Albany, N.Y. on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Behind Iwanowicz from left to right are other committee members, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple; Lucy McKnight, Albany County Legislator, District 1; Anne Pope, director, Northeastern Region of the NAACP; Chris Amato, a staff attorney with Earthjustice, and Charlene Benton, president of the Ezra Prentice Tenants Association. Photo courtesy of Albany County

The number to call is 211 and the data collected by the call center will assist the county’s Committee on Crude Oil Safety in determining limits in air pollution monitoring and possible violations of state air pollution standards. 

“We are conducting an overall assessment of possible health and environmental impacts of the rail activities in the county and the 211 system will provide important additional information that can be used in our assessment,” said Iwanowicz. “This will give us the data we need to develop base line information from the public to serve as a guide to review air emissions at the port and other locations. I thank County Executive McCoy for taking the committee’s recommendation and acting so quickly to get this line up and running.” 

Other recommendations include hiring an air pollution monitoring firm to conduct additional air pollution monitoring as per the Environmental Protection Agency. This, along with available health data will help the committee to fully evaluate the effects of the exposure to any pollutants identified. 

“Today’s action by the County Executive is a welcome and much-needed step in addressing odor impacts from crude oil operations at the Port of Albany,” said Christopher Amato, a staff attorney with Earthjustice who represents the Ezra Prentice Homes Tenants Association. “Residents will now have a telephone hotline to call when they smell noxious odors. This type of hotline has proven effective in the past in documenting odor problems from other industrial operations.” 

“I wish to thank the members of the committee,” said county executive Dan McCoy. “They reflect the diversity of experience and knowledge and include people who live in harm’s way every day. By working together we can develop a workable action plan to help keep our community safe.” 

In related news, Mayor Kathy M. Sheehan, Chair of Albany’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Rail Safety, together with Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin and Council Members Vivian Kornegay and Dorcey Applyrs, publicly announced the panel members who will analyze rail safety issues in Albany during a separate press conference on Wednesday afternoon. 

The panel includes legal, public safety and housing experts as well as community representatives from impacted neighborhoods. The panel will not only seek input from both State and Federal agencies as it evaluates the state of rail safety in the city, but will also issue recommendations to protect the city’s residents and visitors from the potential hazards posed by rail cars which carry oil and other hazardous materials. 

Panel members include: Albany Mayor Kathy M. Sheehan, Chair; Hon. Carolyn McLaughin, Common Council President; Hon. Dorcey Applyrs, Common Council 1st Ward; Hon. Vivian Kornegay, Common Council 2nd Ward; Hon. Lucille McKnight, Albany County Legislator District 1; Hon. Craig Apple, Albany County Sheriff; Bill Law, Vice President, Mount Hope Neighborhood Association; Charlene Benton, President, Ezra Prentice Neighborhood Association; Georgeann Payne, President, North Albany Neighborhood Association; Chief Steven Krokoff, City of Albany Police Department; Chief Warren Abriel, City of Albany Fire Department; Miriam Stuart, Director, Shepherd’s Purse; Ray Brescia, Director, Government Law Center at Albany Law School; Dr. Erin Bell, Environmental Health Expert, School of Public Health; and Steven T. Longo, Executive Director, Albany Housing Authority 

“We need to build on the positive momentum we’ve achieved from local and federal actions taken to date to improve rail safety,” Mayor Sheehan said. “The unprecedented increase in rail traffic impacts everyone who lives, works, shops and drives near the tracks. My administration is committed to giving community members a voice as we develop realistic solutions for keeping people safe.” 

The Panel will begin its work this week and will provide its findings to the City by September 2.

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PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.