Local and Federal Regulation
As construction continues to grow around campus, including the University Recreation Center due to open next fall, UNC Charlotte has updated the regulations on construction vehicle emissions. This will set a new precedent for how the administration handles improving air and environmental quality. UNC Charlotte partnered with the Clean Carolina Initiative to reduce diesel fuel emissions on campus. Clean Carolina is a group of Mecklenburg County citizens working with the community to improve and maintain North Carolina’s air quality. This team of volunteers joined forces with UNC Charlotte to improve campus air quality by creating new regulations designed to change how UNC Charlotte handles construction pollution. The University has reformed its Design and Construction manual to coincide with federal guidelines and mandates in order to ensure that the “design, construction and renovation” of University-owned facilities remain at the correct and safe standards.
Recent regulation reform implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that construction companies meet the “Tier 4 Standards” to decrease fuel emissions on construction sites. These regulations address the amount of particulate matter that is produced by non-road diesel engines based on the amount of horsepower produced by the engine of the vehicle. According to the EPA, “…by 2030, we estimate that this program will reduce over 129,000 tons PM2.5 (Particulate Matter) and 738,000 tons of NOX (Nitrogen Oxide) annually.”
What is particulate matter?
With new campus guidelines for construction companies, the amount of particulate matter in the air is expected to decrease. But what exactly does this mean? EPA defines particulate matter (PM) as: “The mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye.” PM is measured by a scale of PM2.5 and PM10. PM2.5 are hair cell sized particles that are 2.5 micrometers or smaller, which is 30 times smaller than the average human hair. PM10 are inhalable particles that are 10 micrometers or smaller.
The EPA has connected particulate matter with several health risks, including premature death in people with heart or lung disease, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, increased respiratory symptoms and coughing or difficulty breathing. Constructions sites are one of the main causes of particulate matter dispersal, which can cause health issues for workers, students, faculty and staff if precautions are not taken. Particulate matter has also been linked to many environmental issues. Fine particles are the leading cause of visibility reduction in parts of the United States, including several national parks. In addition, lakes, rivers, streams and other coastal basins are vulnerable to an unbalanced amount of nutrients, which can increase the salinity and endanger the local wildlife. The work of UNC Charlotte and other environmental groups aims to reduce this pollution and improve and maintain the quality of life on our campus.