New Air Monitoring Data Shows Lowest Levels of Diesel Exhaust Around Port of Los Angeles Since Collection of Data Began

Mar 28, 2013

SAN PEDRO, Calif. — New data from four air quality monitoring stations in and around the Port of Los Angeles show concentrations of elemental carbon in the Port area air fell in 2012 to the lowest levels since the Port began collecting data in 2005. Elemental carbon is used as an indicator of diesel particulate matter, or DPM, which is the soot produced by the combustion of diesel fuel.

For calendar year 2012, elemental carbon was down by 72 percent in Wilmington compared to calendar year 2006, which was the first full year of monitoring data collected. The San Pedro monitoring station also showed a significant decrease of 61 percent. These drops in elemental carbon happened even as cargo volumes at the Port have rebounded – in 2012 the Port handled 1.7 percent more cargo than in 2011, but elemental carbon at both the Wilmington monitoring and San Pedro stations were 39 and 18 percent lower, respectively, than in 2011.

“The continued improvement of air quality in and around the Port of Los Angeles is impressive,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “It’s the result of strong cooperation and willingness between the port and industry stakeholders to work together, make investments and demonstrate how we can continually grow the port as a regional economic engine, but grow it green at the same time.”

“I’m extremely pleased that we’ve been able to continue to significantly reduce Diesel Particulate Matter in the communities in and around the Port,” said Port Executive Director Geraldine Knatz, Ph.D. “Year after year, air quality in the Los Angeles Harbor is improving as a result of substantial investments the Port, its tenants and other Port-related businesses have made by purchasing cleaner equipment and participating in a variety of emission-reduction initiatives.”

Concentrations of another key air pollutant related to diesel exhaust, PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 microns in size) met federal and state standards for the fifth straight year.  In addition to port and industry initiatives, state air quality regulations also have helped reduce emissions from the big diesel engines that power much of the goods movement that flows through the San Pedro Bay port complex, the nation’s largest trade gateway in terms of containerized cargo.

Since 2005 the Port has operated four air quality measurement stations: one in San Pedro, another in Wilmington, and two inside the Port complex, including one in the middle of port operations.  The stations are strategically located to measure air quality both in the port complex and in the communities downwind of the Port, where air quality is affected by emissions from the ships, trucks, terminal equipment, harbor vessels and train locomotives that move cargo through the nation’s largest container port.

The State’s restrictions on the sulfur content of fuel used in vessels and equipment operated at the port, the Port’s Clean Truck and Alternative Maritime Power programs, and the San Pedro Bay Vessel Speed Reduction program are among the key measures the State and the Port have used to tackle vessel emissions. The Port has also spent millions of dollars retrofitting cargo handling equipment and harbor craft engines with pollution control devices, and pioneering the use of alternative fuels and power systems. 

The air quality monitoring stations measure, in real time, ambient concentrations of several key air pollutants, including two sizes of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5 ). In addition, twenty-four hour integrated samples of particulates are collected on filters every third day for detailed chemical analyses, which cannot be done with real-time monitors. Those analyses include measuring the amount of elemental carbon in the filters.

Each station also collects wind speed, wind direction, and temperature data so that the air pollutant data can be used in models that track the movement of pollutants. The real-time data can be viewed at caap.airsis.com and past filter-based data back to 2005 can be viewed on the Port’s website (www.portoflosangeles.org/environment/air_quality.asp). 

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