Many neighbors of the BNSF rail yard in Kansas City, Kan., have worked diligently to evaluate the air diesel exhaust pollution that wafts their way day after day, week after week.
With assistance from environmental groups, the neighbors have established in studies they did in 2014 and this year that a potential threat to human health exists near the rail yard.
People are worried for legitimate reasons; the microscopic particles they are measuring have been linked to heart attacks, cancer and lung disease.
As The Star detailed recently, though, no official determination has been made about how serious that threat might be, and no governmental programs have been put in place to force BNSF to change its ways.
In addition, not all who live close by share the concerns about the pollution caused by the powerful locomotives.
Some defend BNSF as a reliable employer; the company also points to the fact it now uses cleaner-burning engines. Finally, the BNSF operation has been in the same spot for many decades. This is not a classic NIMBY case.
However, it is a situation that deserves detailed investigation by local air quality officials with the federal Environmental Protection Agency. They have the expertise needed to better determine whether the emissions are harmful to humans and, if so, what should be done to curtail them.
In addition, BNSF officials need to work more closely with their neighbors and the EPA in reviewing air pollution created by the company.
Gathering the best possible information would reduce or eliminate the concern that some of the air samples taken in the past were not done professionally or did not take other factors into account, such as exhaust from vehicles on nearby interstates.
The neighbors requested that BNSF install an air monitoring system around the yard. It would collect information that could be valuable in protecting the health of not just neighbors but also of the rail company’s own workers.
Eventually, the EPA, BNSF and concerned residents should be able to reasonably determine whether a plan should be developed to further curtail diesel emissions at the rail yard.