Berkeley residents angry over air quality

February 21, 2009 6:13:30 PM PST
A recent report claims the environmentally-conscious City of Berkeley has some of the worst air in the country.

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One group of protesters say they know the reason why.

Pacific Steel has been in Berkeley for 75 years. But recently, those living nearby say the company has been a major polluter in the area.

They want their message heard.

Dozens of parents, children and West Berkeley residents marched down Gilman Street Saturday. They are angry about what they say is coming out of the Pacific Steel casting plant.

"This is our city. These are our kids. This is our air. Clean it up," shouted a woman through a bullhorn.

They say high levels of manganese and nickel emissions are filling the air and impacting their neighborhoods and schools.

A USA Today and University of Massachusetts study says three Berkeley schools have some of the worst air in the country. They are Black Pine Circle, Nia House Learning Center and Via Center.

"I'm worried about the metals my kids might be breathing, and the poisons," said Judith Barish.

The group wants Pacific Steel to lower its emission levels considerably. In the meantime, Pacific Steel responded to the ongoing outrage from the community saying, "This company is not violating any standards for air quality and is below all health standards that are spelled out in law."

Those at the Bay Area Air Quality Management agree and call the USA Today study misleading. They say the findings do not measure actual levels of toxins in the air, and say the study was not scientifically calculated.

Air Quality's finding says the major pollutant in West Berkeley is actually from diesel and car exhaust.

Lisa Fasano with Air Quality Management told ABC7, "So far our data indicates, our preliminary data indicates, there are no elevated levels of manganese or nickel in the area or specifically from the Pacific Steel plant."

The Air Quality Management District says the USA Today study was originally meant to inform residents about their air quality, but instead, it has gotten people very upset and they have started pointing fingers.

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