Skip Navigation


Export to Word (
Principal Investigator: Clougherty, Jane Ellen
Institute Receiving Award Drexel University
Location Philadelphia, PA
Grant Number R21ES034494
Funding Organization National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Award Funding Period 01 Jul 2022 to 30 Jun 2024
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): In June 2019, a massive explosion at the east coast’s largest oil refinery shook buildings across South Philadelphia.1 Residents were told to shelter-in-place while 676,000 pounds of hydrocarbons and 3,271 pounds of deadly hydrogen fluoride (HF) washed over their neighborhood,2,3 and the city health department assured residents that there was no evidence of a health risk.4-6 Two years later, the non-operational Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) complex remains the 2nd-highest benzene-emitting refinery in the U.S..7 Despite substantial emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during decommissioning and demolition, little data has been made available to residents; the one local EPA Air Quality System (AQS) monitor for VOCs operates only every 6th day, and required fenceline monitoring washes out peak events in 2-week averages.8,9 Neither data source has been updated online since March 2020.10-12 Our key goal is to collaborate with Philly Thrive – an environmental justice organization with a primary constituency of fenceline residents - to design and establish a community-scale air toxics monitoring network, to capture and report on-going exposures throughout decommissioning and reconstruction, in this vulnerable community. Residents near refineries and petrochemical complexes are disproportionately African-American, 61% are persons of color, and 45% live in poverty.7,15 The confluence of social stressors and pollution exposures surrounding this site – and the model for community-based monitoring design that we are developing - has relevance and utility for fenceline communities nationwide. Hispanic, and of lower socioeconomic position (SEP);13,14 here, over 300,000 people live within 3 miles; By establishing a high-density, community-scale BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene) VOC monitoring network, we will assess both where exposures are elevated, and when changes in source activity and meteorology increase exposures. Throughout the planned 10-year decommissioning process – which will include removal of 950 miles of pipe, dozens of storage tanks, and underground benzene ‘pools’19,20 - our monitoring system will provide critical reassurance to the community when concentrations are low, and a means for advocating for improvement when concentrations are high - with the credibility of third-party academic scientists with an established relationship with the community. Our study will vastly improve spatial and temporal resolution over the current sparse monitoring, towards reducing exposures, and powerful levers towards advocating for cleaner processes. providing critical information We will seek further funding to maintain the system over the 10-year decommissioning and reconstruction process. Data and land use regression (LUR) models produced will greatly improve spatio-temporal exposure assessment for on-going and planned epidemiologic studies. This work will provide an important model for environmental monitoring in urban communities undergoing rapid environmental change,21,22 and directly improve studies of VOCs and health.23
Science Code(s)/Area of Science(s) Primary: 93 - Environmental Justice/Environmental Health Disparities
Secondary: 03 - Carcinogenesis/Cell Transformation
Publications No publications associated with this grant
Program Officer Ashlinn Quinn
to Top