Maritime-related air pollution in the Puget Sound region has decreased by as much as 40 percent between 2005 and 2011, according to a new report released by a consortium of Pacific Northwest businesses and government agencies.
Volatile organic compounds were reduced by 40 percent according to the study, which was conducted by the Puget Sound Maritime Air Forum. Other pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, particulate matter, fine particulate matter and diesel particulate matter, were all down between 14 and 16 percent.
The study area covered the U.S. portion of the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin International Airshed, an area about 140 miles long by 160 miles wide.
The inventory, conducted by the Puget Sound Maritime Air Forum, focused on pollutants related to ships, harbor vessels, cargo-handling equipment, rail, heavy-duty trucks and other fleet vehicles associated with maritime activities.
Much of the clean air progress is due to significant, voluntary investments of the maritime industry and government agencies in cleaner technology, cleaner fuels and more efficient systems of operation.
The maritime industry has adopted a number of voluntary initiatives to reduce emissions, including switching to low-sulfur or biodiesel fuels, using shore power, replacing or retrofitting older engines and improving systems to use equipment more efficiently.
The Maritime Air Forum, a voluntary association of private and public maritime organizations, ports, air agencies, environmental and public health advocacy groups and other parties with operational or regulatory responsibilities related to the maritime industry.
More than two-dozen entities are member of the Maritime Air Forum, including the ports of Seattle, Tacoma, Everett and Olympia, as well as the Union Pacific and BNSF railways and various state and federal government agencies, including the Washington State Dept. of Transportation and U.S. Coast Guard.
“The results of the 2011 Emissions Inventory are significant, with substantial pollution reductions across the board for the Port of Seattle,” port commission President Gael Tarleton said. “The Seattle Port Commission has been committed to finding answers that will inform our decisions for years to come.”
Regarding diesel particulate matter emissions, they were down by 52 percent in heavy-duty vehicles, 47 percent in fleet vehicles, 40 percent in cargo-handling equipment, 24 percent in locomotives and 16 percent in ocean-going vessels, according to the survey.
However, diesel particulate emanating from harbor vessels actually increased seven percent, something the study say was likely due to a 12 percent increase in boat traffic, as well as an increase in the use of larger engines, which have higher emissions.