After over a year and a half of calling on the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to do their job and conduct a Comprehensive Health Impact Assessment (CHIA), MCAN took matters into our own hands.
We brought on Katheryn Rodgers, an Environmental Health Ph.D. student at the Boston University School of Public Health to conduct a preliminary assessment of the health outcomes of communities that live near the proposed site of the Peabody Peaker. Specifically, we aimed to:
- Summarize baseline health data in populations surrounding the Peabody Peaker;
- Compare disease prevalence in populations closer to the Peabody Peaker and the rest of the state;
- Identify risk factors, such as age and environmental justice (EJ) status, that may make the surrounding population more vulnerable to health impacts caused or exacerbated by emissions from the power plant; and
- Identify key components of a future community health impact assessment (CHIA).
The results from our study raise significant concerns and highlight the need for additional analysis on the impact the proposed Peabody Peaker will have on neighboring communities that are already overburdened.
We found that communities within 2 Kilometers of the proposed project site:
- Have a significantly higher prevalence of cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke.
- Have a higher percentage of vulnerable populations (i.e. residents who were younger than 5 years old and older than 65 years old).
- Are already overburdened by 19 miles of major roadways and 13 facilities regulated by MA DEP Bureau of Air and Waste that may also contribute to poorer environmental quality in the area.
- Include eight Environmental Census blocks, two hospitals, four schools, and four long-term care facilities.
The Potential Impact of the Proposed Peaker
While we were unable to model the potential impact of the proposed Peabody Peaker, the literature indicates that it may significantly exacerbate health burdens in neighboring communities.
A recent study that analyzed ambient NO2 concentrations in 398 high-income cities worldwide found that small increases (10 μg/m3) were associated with the risk of overall mortality and cardiovascular and respiratory mortality.
Our analysis reiterates once more, that the communities who live near the Peabody Peakers construction site are already overburdened. They cannot and should not have to cope with the additional burdens that are associated with a new oil and gas facility.
Substantively engage communities, especially vulnerable groups.
Look closer at health outcomes and disparities, paying particular attention to more vulnerable communities.
Measure background concentrations of particulate matter (PM) with Purple Air monitors at nearby monitoring locations.
Model NO2, SO2, PM2.5, PM10, CO, O3, Pb when the peaker plant runs for consecutive hours on “peak” days.
Compare cumulative emissions to health effects associated with short-term NO2, SO22, PM2.5, PM10, O3 exposures.
The burden that neighboring communities are already facing is clear. We should not be further exacerbating these impacts. The Peabody Peaker project should not be permitted to move forward, especially if no community health impact assessment is conducted.
Instead of adding to the burden of the community, we should be reducing it. The city of Peabody and the PMLP should look to retire not one, but both of the existing facilities that are currently polluting and harming affected neighborhoods.