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Warehouse Workers for Justice issues smog report on Joliet and Elwood

Study monitored air pollution at four locations

Warehouse Workers for Justice on Wednesday released a report saying air pollution in residential areas in the vicinity of the Joliet and Elwood intermodal facilities is at unhealthy levels and urging a move to electric trucks.

The report comes after a study by WWJ monitoring pollution from particulate matter 2.5 in the air at four locations in Joliet and Elwood over eight weeks.

“This report was born from health and safety concerns of warehouse workers and local residents living close to warehouses, highways and ports who are growing increasingly worried about levels of chronic lung conditions like asthma and [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] in the area,” Madison Lisle, co-author of the report, said at a news conference.

One participant in the study said that more than 1,000 trucks could be counted at one Joliet intersection in a two-hour period.

The study, “For Good Jobs & Clean Air: How A Just Transition to Zero Emission Vehicles Can Transform Warehousing,” describes pollution levels from the local warehouse and transportation industry as “environmental racism” and points to the impact on neighborhoods occupied by African Americans and Hispanics.

Air monitors were places at four locations:

• Houston Avenue in the Preston Heights area just outside Joliet city limits and along Route 53, a major route for trucks traveling between Interstate 80 and the intermodal yards.

• Henderson Avenue near Collins Street, a longtime residential area in the heart of the East Side of Joliet.

• The Joliet Junior College Greenhouse near the entrance to the college on Houbolt Road, which is in the process of being expanded to handle more truck traffic in 2023 when a bridge over the Des Plaines River will open to provide trucks with a new route in and out of the CenterPoint Intermodal Center.

• Mississippi Avenue in Elwood, the village that is home to the BNSF Railway intermodal yard and located along Route 53.

According to the report, every location exceeded maximum levels of PM2.5 set by the World Health Organization, which, it noted, are more stringent than those set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

PM2.5 is fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or smaller that can be inhaled and is emitted by power plants, industry and automobiles.

Warehouse Workers for Justice urged a transition to electric trucks to reduce air pollution from the local warehouse industry.

“Our study shows that the people of Joliet can benefit enormously from zero-emission trucks that can end diesel-related health crises,” Lisle said.