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Soccer fields part of air quality study

By John Geluardi Daily Planet Staf
Sunday March 25, 2001



The City Council approved funds for an air monitoring study at Harrison Park to assess the health risk to children who play soccer at the field as well as residents of the area. 

The council adopted the resolution by a unanimous vote Tuesday, which will allow the city manager to enter into a contract with Applied Measurement Science, of Fair Oaks for $39,700.  

If the study finds high levels of particulate matter the field may have to be closed on  

certain days. 

A previous air study was done at the park in 1997 as part of the Environmental Impact Report required for the city’s purchase of the property from the University of California. That study, conducted by the Acurex Environmental Corp., found normal levels of carcinogens and other toxic materials. 

But the study detected above average amounts of solid particulate matter. The report concluded the high level of particulate matter was likely from auto emissions on Interstate 80, which runs along the west side of the park.  

Particulate matter is the generic term used for a type of air pollution 

that consists of complex and varying mixtures of particles suspended in the air we breathe. Particles are present everywhere, but high concentrations or specific types of particles have been found to present a serious danger to human health.  

The property was developed into multiple soccer fields, which are used by the Alameda Contra Costa Youth Soccer League. The league is comprised of players between the ages of seven and 18. 

The 1997 study was performed over the course of two days. Critics of the study said because of the limited time, the results would not take into consideration the impact of weather conditions especially wind.  

According to a written recommendation, the new AMS study, “includes around-the-clock measurements in all weather conditions and seasons.” 

Parks and Waterfront project manager Ed Murphy said the primary reason for the new study is to determine if there are greater health risks during certain weather conditions. He said if the study shows evidence of health risk, the city’s response would depend on a health consultant’s advice. 

In addition to the unknown weather impacts, a nearby section of the freeway was widened and the council report estimates a 20 percent increase in traffic volume during peak hours. 

“We’re going to do what the health consultant recommends,” Murphy said. “Depending on how big the problem is, we’d have to warn parents who have children with respiratory diseases and possibly close the field during certain weather conditions.” 

City Hazardous Materials Supervisor Nabil Al-Hadithy said the kids who play soccer at the field are only in the area for a short period of time and the study may detect health risks for people who live in the area. 

Community Environmental Commissioner LA Wood said the 1997 study showed there were traces of chromium in the air around the field. He said he tried to get the Parks and Waterfront, the CEAC and the City Council to address the chromium but was told it was not an issue. 

Some forms of chromium can cause cancer if inhaled or ingested. Wood said the study did not specify what type of chromium it discovered. 

Dr. Eric D. Winegar, of Applied Measurement Science, who is conducting the new study, said it is likely low levels of chromium would be found in most cities – not just Berkeley. 

Winegar said the objective of the new study is to compare the amounts of particulate matter against state and local air quality standards. He said the study will estimate the amount of particulate matter in hourly averages over 24-hour periods and the real-time results will be posted on the web during the course of the study. The URL of the site has not been announced yet.