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Community Scale Air Toxics Monitoring Project – Port of Providence and Surrounding Communities

Jump to:
Project Background Project Details Map of Nearby Industrial Sources Map of Land Uses Recent Air Emissions Inventory Data Monitoring Information Air Quality Status Map Source Inspections Equipment/Assessments Pollutants, Sources & Health Effects Contacts

Aerial map of the Port of Providence with key locations labelled

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Project Background

Air quality surrounding the Port of Providence is impacted by air pollution from diesel trucks, marine vessels, oil and gas storage and distribution, asphalt and cement processing, metals recycling, natural gas and utility service, and large heating plants.

Additionally, Interstate Route 95 (I-95) passes through Providence neighborhoods with among the highest poverty and childhood asthma rates in the State. The goal of this Community-Scale Air Toxics monitoring project is to characterize air toxic emissions near the Port of Providence and its potential impacts on the people living and working in the area.

Public health officials have recognized that structural racism in the form of redlining, planning, zoning, industrial siting, and lack of institutional power have resulted in low income and communities of color being disproportionately negatively impacted by environmental hazards, including air pollution. The Port of Providence and the surrounding industrial areas hold regional energy and economic significance, yet present local impacts that are often in conflict with surrounding communities. Communities living close to the highway, port, freight transportation corridors, and industrial areas with more emission sources tend to be more vulnerable to increased exposure to air pollution and the negative health effects.

The study will provide valuable information about air pollution levels in communities located adjacent to the Port. The affected communities located closest to the Port are generally low-income communities of color in Providence who bear most of the burden of port-related emissions and suffer the greatest environmental health consequences of air pollution. In Providence, the affected communities generally include the Indigenous, African-American, Black, Latinx, and Southeast Asian communities. There is particular emphasis on people of color who are refugees and immigrants, people with criminal records, those who speak languages other than English, and LGBTQIA+ individuals. The EPA’s Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool (EJSCREEN) is a useful tool for identifying the affected communities. As seen in the map below, EJSCREEN identifies many affected communities, including residential areas (i.e. South Providence and Washington Park) located in close proximity to the Port.

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Environmental Justic Map

Children are also more sensitive to environmental conditions. For example, they are more sensitive to air pollution because their lungs are still developing, and they breathe more air per unit body weight than adults do. This can lead to long-term health impacts. People who already have respiratory health conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases are more susceptible to the impact of pollution.

The graphic below shows that the east side of Providence has a much lower rate of children living with asthma compared to the rest of the city. A prior Community Scale Air Toxics monitoring study entitled "Evaluation of the Impact of On-Road Mobile Source Air Toxics on Air Quality at Sensitive Receptors Adjacent to Interstate Route 95 in the Providence Metropolitan Area," evaluated air quality associated with highway traffic. Data from that study indicates that ethylbenzene and xylene levels may be influenced by emissions from port activities and that emissions from the Port should be further evaluated. This new study picks up where some of this previous study left off. Read more about the Near Road study here

Levels of air pollutants measured at the State’s Near Road site, which is adjacent to I-95 in Providence, are consistently considerably higher than those at all other sites in the State . Individuals who reside in South Providence and Washington Park – all predominately low-income communities of color located in close proximity to the Port – represent the majority of asthma-related emergency room visits

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Chart comparison of asthma rates in children

In 2010, RIDEM OAR conducted monitoring in and around the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School, that demonstrated particle count impacts on the side of the school downwind of the Port were significantly higher than on the other side. Funding was limited for that study and only particle counts were obtained. Recently, community leaders have expressed concern about current air pollution levels at the school and the results of this study will help further characterize air pollution level at the school, as well as areas surrounding the Port. The monitoring data collected in this study will provide us with valuable information on the level of toxic VOC emissions in areas adjacent to the Port that can be used to reduce unnecessary pollutant exposures.

RIDEM OAR intends to work with representatives of community groups to ensure that the study addresses community concerns and that the results and recommendations are widely communicated. At the end of the study, the monitors, will be available to address future issues identified by community members.

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Project Details

The RI DEM Office of Air Resources in conjunction with the RI DOH Air Pollution Laboratory is conducting a Community Scale Air Toxics Monitoring study after successfully applying for and receiving an EPA grant. The study aims to characterize air quality and levels of volatile organic compounds and air toxics in the vicinity of schools, hospitals, residences, and recreational facilities in the areas surrounding the Port of Providence. In addition to monitoring for common pollutants found in port environments, fuel and chemical use data will be collected from industrial sources in the vicinity of the Port to determine air pollution emissions from these sources. Additionally, these sources will be inspected for compliance with Air Pollution Control Regulations.

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Interactive Map of Monitoring Sites Around the Port of Providence

Click on map icons to read additional details

Interactive Map of Land Uses Around the Port of Providence

Click on map icons to read additional details

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Most Recent Air Emissions Inventory Data from Sources Around the Port of Providence

Below is a summary of the most recent data on air emissions from sources located around the Port of Providence. This data will be updated as data becomes available.

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What is Being Monitored, How, Where, and When?
  • PM 2.5 and NO2– monitored 24/7 with readings every 15 minutes using Clarity Nodes.
  • Air Toxics/VOCs– 24-hr samples will be collected once every six days using Summa Cannisters and EPA Method TO-15A/TO-15.
  • Meteorology – monitored 24/7 at Providence Community Health Center, Providence Animal Shelter, and Suez Pump Station using Rainwise MK4-C equipment.
Interactive Map with Real-time Status of Air Quality at Monitoring Sites Around the Port of Providence

Click on map icons to read additional details

Source Inspections

Below is a list of recently completed air compliance inspections and results from sources located around the Port of Providence. This information will be updated as inspections are completed.

  • National Grid LNG
  • Ferguson Perforating
  • Ira Green Inc.
  • Narragansett Improvement Co.

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Handheld Equipment/Special Assessments
  • Black Carbon – measured with a handheld Microaeth during peak truck traffic times roadside.
  • Particle Count - measured using a TSI 3007 which can provide a range of particle sizes, but of particular interest is ultra-fine particles (UFP).
  • Grab Samples - Perform several 30-minute grab samples during special events, such as tanker offloading of petroleum or strong odor complaints. Same method as VOCs/Air Toxics.
Mobile Air Emissions Monitoring with EPA

Coming soon

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Common Pollutants in the Ports – Sources and Health Effects
Pollutant Sources Standard Health Effects
PM2.5 Traffic, burning of heating fuels, dust from activities like waste handling, asphalt paving production Federal air quality standard
  • Changes in the cardiovascular system
  • Adverse effects in the respiratory and nervous systems
  • People with breathing and heart problems, children, and the elderly may be particularly sensitive.
Black Carbon Diesel-powered vehicles and equipment, industrial processes, burning of petroleum based heating fuels and wood No federal or state air air quality standard but black carbon is a component of diesel exhaust and PM2.5 Health effects include negative effects in respiratory and cardiovascular health, a positive correlation with all-cause hospitalizations and in increase in all-cause mortality from long-term exposure
Nitrogen oxides (NOx)/Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) Produced when petroleum-based fuels are burned. Motor vehicles are large sources of nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen Dioxide is regulated by a federal air quality standards
  • Irritation of the airways in the respiratory system
  • Aggravation of respiratory diseases like asthma
  • Causes asthma in children
  • Longer exposures may contribute to the development of asthma and potentially increase susceptibility to respiratory infections
Benzene In gasoline and also produced during the combustion of gasoline. Released from asphalt pavingproduction, crude oil handling and movement of gasoline from terminal storage vessels to trucks. No federal or state air quality standard.
  • Short-term inhalation exposure of benzene may cause drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation.
  • Long-term inhalation exposures have caused blood disorders and increased incidence of leukemia (cancer affecting the blood and bone marrow).
  • USEPA has classified benzene as a known human carcinogen.
1,3 Butadiene Motor vehicle exhaust, manufacturing and processing facilities, forest fires or other combustion, and cigarette smoke No federal or state air quality standard. Acute effects may include irritation of the eyes, nasal passages, throat, and lungs

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Questions? Comments?

It is the goal of this project to incorporate any and all public feedback from residents, stakeholders, and concerned citizens. Also, there may be some available monitoring tasks to perform for folks who want to get involved.

For questions or more information please contact the appropriate staff person listed below:

General Information


Complaints or Odors


Air Pollution Inventory Data


Facility Air Compliance Data


Rev. 3/7/22