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Durbin Seeks Explanation of Ventilation Issues at Union Station

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–July 20, 2011.  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin yesterday asked the President and CEO of Amtrak, Joseph Boardman, for an update on their efforts to improve air quality in and around Union Station and an explanation of how the responsibility to ensure the air ventilation systems are operating properly is shared with private land owners near the station. 

“Amtrak, as the owner of Union Station, has a responsibility to ensure the air ventilation systems under their control are operating properly and cleaning the air to the greatest extent possible,” Durbin wrote.  “I understand the air rights above Union Station’s platform and tracks have been sold or leased to private land owners. These owners too, have a responsibility to operate vents and fans that remove diesel exhaust from the locomotives in Union Station.   I hope you can give me a status update on the situation and Amtrak’s future plans to improve air quality in and around Union Station.”

In November, Durbin asked several federal agencies to work with Metra to look into the results of a Chicago Tribune report that discovered the high level of diesel soot and air pollution in commuter rail cars.  The report found levels of diesel soot in Ogilvie and Union Stations up to 72 times higher than on the streets outside.  Diesel exhaust contains many air pollutants, and has been linked to health problems such as cancer, heart attacks, respiratory diseases, diabetes and brain damage.

[Text of yesterday’s letter is below]

July 19, 2011

Joseph H. Boardman     

President and CEO

Amtrak

60 Massachusetts Ave, NE

Washington, DC 20002

Dear Mr. Boardman: 

I am writing to request an update on your efforts to improve air quality in Union Station.  As you know, the Chicago Tribune has published several stories showing Metra and Amtrak workers and commuters are exposed to excessively high levels of diesel soot and other particulates.  The news reports found Metra’s locomotives and train cars to be the biggest areas of concern.  However, the Tribune’s reports and subsequent studies have found ventilation issues in and around Union Station are also contributing to poor air quality.  

Proper ventilation in stations is essential to improving air quality for public transportation users and employees.   Stations without proper ventilation, filtration and air flow can keep toxic gases trapped inside stations used by thousands of people each day.  

Amtrak, as the owner of Union Station, has a responsibility to ensure the air ventilation systems under their control are operating properly and cleaning the air to the greatest extent possible.   I understand the air rights above Union Station’s platform and tracks have been sold or leased to private land owners. These owners too, have a responsibility to operate vents and fans that remove diesel exhaust from the locomotives in Union Station.   I hope you can give me a status update on the situation and Amtrak’s future plans to improve air quality in and around Union Station.

Thank you for your attention this request.  As always, I stand ready to help you improve the air quality, health and safety of workers and commuters using Union Station.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Durbin

U.S. Senator

Source: durbin.senate.gov

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