HOGANSBURG The Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment was selected last week by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct air quality testing in the community.
According to task force member Craig A. Arquette, the test will check for more than 100 airborne toxins, including benzene and toluene. Both are found in gasoline and can be deadly in large doses.
One thing is this community has a lot of gas stations ... plus, we have an industrial site, the old GM plant, so this could help answer some questions about their effects, Mr. Arquette said.
He said DEC is lending the task force five stainless steel containers to collect samples. He said they will be placed in five sites throughout the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, including Generations Park, the Raquette Point Marina and the Akwesasne Boys and Girls Club.
To collect a sample, a researcher simply has to place the container on the ground and open a valve, according to Mr. Arquette. He said the 2-pound tanks will equalize their pressure to the outside, filling themselves with air in the process. He said they take about an hour to fill. After the tanks are full, Mr. Arquette said, DEC takes them and analyzes their contents. The whole process takes about a month, he said.
Mr. Arquette said the samples will provide only a one-time snapshot, but if DEC finds high levels of toxins, it could make Akwesasne eligible for additional funding for more in-depth testing.
In order to define health risks, it would take a bigger project to get the duration and time of exposure to airborne toxins, Mr. Arquette said. The goal at that point would be to identify and pinpoint the source ... and find ways to correct it.
Akwesasne was one of 23 communities chosen for the statewide air sampling project. Twenty other locales were rejected.
The Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment is made up of members of the environment divisions of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, as well as community members from both sides of the reservation. It has been in operation since the mid-1980s, Mr. Arquette said.