New research by a University of Washington Bothell professor finds coal and diesel trains in our region pose air quality issues and could impact the health of people living near the railroad tracks.
Dr. Dan Jaffe, Ph.D., tested the amount of diesel exhaust and coal dust escaping from more than 500 trains over the span of one month. He tested air quality levels in a house in North Seattle and at a location in the Columbia River Gorge.
For people living near the railroad lines, Dr. Jaffe's data suggests that there is a concern with air quality from diesel exhaust. He says coal trains appear to release some larger particulate matter, which is likely to be coal dust.
Dr. Jaffe says he is surprised that levels of CO2 were so high.
"I want this study to inform the community," he said. "These preliminary findings should be a wake-up call that this region needs more in-depth research on the air quality impact."
The study was prompted by a proposal to build a new coal terminal at Cherry Point in Whatcom County. The terminal would increase the number of coal trains that pass through Puget Sound cities.
Some in the rail and coal industry are questioning the findings of the study. The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, which supports new shipping terminals, put out a release that said the research was "long on opinions and short on facts."
BNSF Railway will review the study later this week.
"Rail is the most fuel efficient and environmentally friendly method for transporting freight by land. It’s important that the public has context for just how efficient rail transport is when considering Dr. Jaffe’s findings," said BNSF Railway spokesperson Courtney Wallace In a statement.
A separate study conducted by Community Attributes suggests the increase would cause congestion at rail crossings, but boost the local economy by adding tax revenue and jobs.
KING 5's Jake Whittenberg and Adam Mertz contributed to this report.