Coal

Tests show coal dust minimal near Missoula railyard, councilors say

2012-07-25T20:45:00Z 2014-10-03T14:24:44Z Tests show coal dust minimal near Missoula railyard, councilors sayBy KEILA SZPALLER of the Missoulian missoulian.com

Missoula City Councilman Dave Strohmaier wants to know if coal dust poses a health problem even in just small amounts – 1 percent to 5 percent of overall material.

Some residents in Missoula are worried about coal dust near the railyard, and the Missoula City Council requested the Missoula City-County Health Department conduct tests for it near the tracks. Last month, the results came back, and Wednesday department officials presented them to a council committee.

Some councilors questioned the methodology used in the tests and expressed disappointment that one out of four samples couldn’t be analyzed. But Strohmaier and Councilor Bob Jaffe said the data appear to show the presence of coal dust is minimal.

“There is some amount of it, but also what is a likely interpretation is in the end, it’s a minimal if not negligible amount of the dust that folks were exposed to over there,” Jaffe said.

He said it contributes to overall pollution, but it’s not one of the significant contributors.

Strohmaier, though, added that even the arguably tiny amounts of dust contradict statements from the railroad company: “The presence of any coal dust runs counter to some of the claims by Montana Rail Link that there is not coal dust whatsoever.”

The subject is a topic of interest because of projected increases in coal exports from the Powder River Basin to Asia. The most direct train route to ports on the West Coast goes through Missoula.

Montana Rail Link, though, isn’t anticipating a large escalation in coal traffic, and its officials have noted mountain passes the trains must travel make the projected increases nearly impossible.

At the meeting, Nick Engelfried of the Blue Skies Campaign said he wants more information, and he reminded councilors he’s worried the small percent of coal dust now could grow to a larger percentage if coal traffic increases as some analysts project. The campaign is a Missoula group opposed to increased coal shipments.

“It does seem like this is only the very tip of the iceberg of information gathering that we need to do on this subject, and there are a lot of unanswered questions,” said Engelfried, who pushed for a more methodical scientific study.

While the sampling detected coal, it wasn’t designed to measure some outcomes, according to the Health Department’s Ben Schmidt.

“There is some question about the health impacts from coal dust. That really wasn’t the intent or purpose of this study. It was purely to look at what was being deposited on surfaces,” Schmidt said.

The council didn’t take action Wednesday, but Strohmaier said the health effects of even a small amount of coal dust are one of several topics worth exploring in the future.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, keila.szpaller@missoulian.com.

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(14) Comments

  1. nemo
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    nemo - July 28, 2012 2:01 pm
    Personally I'd be more terrified of the mercury content in all that coal. Mercury, now there's a pollutant you can really sink yer green teeth into. Ooops, did I just say that out loud? My bad, what I meant to say was Mercury is a planet. Yeah, one of those really far away planets. Never hurt a fly, that ol' planet Mercury. Okay, move it along, no show here.
  2. erlyirn
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    erlyirn - July 27, 2012 10:02 pm
    Poor Dave S thought he was going to come up with a smoking gun and all he got was a popcorn #$%^.
  3. dave ajou
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    dave ajou - July 26, 2012 3:05 pm
    If democracy has been called government by discussion, then the neo-luddites have had the floor long enough around here. As Pistol said, just say you're against fossil fuels, and mining, and timber jobs. And railroads, airports, automobiles, hunting, fishing and meat.Did I miss anything ?
  4. Montana88
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    Montana88 - July 26, 2012 1:21 pm
    mtbiker: I went to the website you suggested, and guess what , “the website is all about climate change.” Not really surprising, however you say “Turns out that coal costs our economy between $175 and $500 BILLION dollars annually. Not exactly an economic boon. And it is the worst for the communities with the mines.” Mtbiker, that is one heck of range from 175 to 500 billion dollars. The information you are basing your agreement on comes from a list of costs that has no details on where the numbers came from,” most likely the thin air.” Now, I hope I’m not on some government watch list for going to that website.
    In addition, you said “Montana88: If you are looking for the great economic benefits of coal, consider the vitality of the coal field communities in the east: Roundup, Hardin, Decker, Savage, and Colstrip. Are any of them growing? Surprisingly yes. Based on the State of Montana economic numbers for 2009, Roundup’s mean household income was $33,149. Harden’s mean household income was $27,363 and Colstrip’s mean household income was $76,296. Sorry, but I could not find any information on Decker or Savage I guess the dozen or so people who live there didn’t respond to the state’s survey. Missoula’s mean household income was $32,046, In 2000 it was $30,366, not a lot of change. MTbiker I am not only looking for any economic benefits of coal but any economic benefit for any other industry that may want to open up shop in our great community. You, see the message you are sending out is not just no to coal but no to any other business that maybe thinking of relocating here
  5. Festivus
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    Festivus - July 26, 2012 11:35 am
    MtBiker is misinformed. Refer to the University's own independent economic study of the economic impacts of the proposed Otter Creek project. Its posted online. I am not saying there is nothing wrong with burning coal, sure there is a cost, but it does provide a lot of high paying jobs that radiate into a significant economic infusion for Montana. Roundup was a thriving place when they had the coal mines. FYI they closed in about 1952 and the town has struggled ever since. SPE is probably more of a boon to Billings, but I am sure Roundup can only say they have got more money now than they had before SPE opened. Selling coal to China and Japan is a good deal. They have newer and better plants than we do, and we need the money. Its interesting how Missoulians who hate coal choose to overlook the taxes paid and services provided by the coal severance tax and other taxes levied on coal production. Its not like the part time jobs and low salaries in western MT could hope to pick up that tab.
  6. ambiguous genitalia
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    ambiguous genitalia - July 26, 2012 11:03 am
    did you eat Sour Grapes for Breakfast?
  7. mtbiker
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    mtbiker - July 26, 2012 10:13 am
    AG, Hellgate, and BobbyLee: Your ad hominem attacks are a disservice to public discourse (democracy has been called government by discussion).

    Pistol raises an interesting point. Out of state coal companies used to argue that strip mining Montana was patriotic because it would allow American energy independence. The market shift (to Asia) has them changing their tune. Apparently, for them patriotism was just an ad campaign.

    Montana88: If you are looking for the great economic benefits of coal, consider the vitality of the coal field communities in the east: Roundup, Hardin, Decker, Savage, and Colstrip. Are any of them growing? Would anyone ever want to move to any of those towns to start a new business? Not likely. Also, for a systematic analysis of the true costs of coal, see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05890.x/full. Turns out that coal costs our economy between $175 and $500 BILLION dollars annually. Not exactly an economic boon. And it is the worst for the communities with the mines.

    Coal export promises to enrich out-of-state coal companies and businesses in Asia. Montana just gets stuck with the trains, clean up costs, and costs to improve infrastructure. No thanks.
  8. Montana88
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    Montana88 - July 26, 2012 7:57 am
    Does anyone else find it very strange that in todays paper we have an article about coal dust and an article titled Missoula only urban county in Montana with continued drop in earnings growth? Guess what Councilman Strohmaier, keep up with your anti-business agenda and push all business out the city and Missoula County. Then we can see what the city and county budgets would look like .
  9. Pistol
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    Pistol - July 26, 2012 12:19 am
    ENOUGH! Just come out and say your against fossil fuel. Same type of people that thought wolves would be a good addition to the ecosystem. Shut down the coal industry, China is smart enough to use coal to make there dependence on oil less. Not the USA we let our jobs, and resources go overseas why we import oil. DUH!
  10. BobbyLee
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    BobbyLee - July 26, 2012 12:18 am
    - "Dave Strohmaier wants to know if coal dust poses a health problem even in just small amounts – 1 percent to 5 percent of overall material.'

    Strohmaier should be more worried about the building and cleaning materials in his own home. That. and his own farts.

    I grew up 30 feet from a railroad, six coal trains a day pulled by a wonderful old steam locomotive. For four years my mother dragged me to work every day; a boarding house she cleaned where most of the lodgers were hardcore smokers. On leaving school I milked cows in an asbestos barn, shoveled grain without a mask and applied chemicals to fields in shorts and a t-shirt. I then fought fires for 12 years, breathing in an assortment of wildfire 'pollutants'. The nearest I've been to death has been by guns or knives, and some stupid ****ing doctor who left me in pain for the rest of my life. Growing up in my surroundings, for 16 years, I knew only one kid with asthma and only one with allergies. Now, with the cleanliness that surrounds us, I see countless people with asthma, allergies and other undiagnosed illnesses.

    At 56 I'm beginning to wish that one of those dastardly pollutants had finished me, so that I would never again have to listen to another word of that moronic Strohmaier and his ilk. He's the classic example of 'he doesn't know what he doesn't know'. And that intellect is downright scary when in the hands of a city councilor.
  11. hellgatenights
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    hellgatenights - July 26, 2012 12:17 am
    Would this be a bad time to ask for a permit to burn coal in my furnace? We did it when I was a child on Alder street........great heat, and smells good too!
  12. hellgatenights
    Report Abuse
    hellgatenights - July 26, 2012 12:15 am
    At the meeting, Nick Engelfried of the Blue Skies Campaign said he wants more information

    I have all the information you need Nick.......you are a moron and trolling for monies you will not get. Go back to you teepee.

    Are you happy now Stroby? Please find something productive to do with your time.....maybe write a book on campaign strategies......that don't work!
  13. ambiguous genitalia
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    ambiguous genitalia - July 25, 2012 11:04 pm
    No one yet knows how much ifnot ALL of that dust comes from rain particles? Weather in the Missoula valley generally comes from the west and the dust in our rain usually comes from far to the west, which of coarse would mean that what little coal dust is found in our yards today was already in China last year.
  14. ambiguous genitalia
    Report Abuse
    ambiguous genitalia - July 25, 2012 10:56 pm
    how can this be good for the eco-nazis
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