South Washington County Schools

Board receives update on air quality of area surrounding Oltman Middle

The School Board has received information from two external experts relative to the concerns raised about air quality in the vicinity of Oltman Middle School in St. Paul Park.

Beth Kunkel of Kimley-Horn and Associates presented an assessment on behalf of John Crawford who developed a report on the air quality in the vicinity of Oltman Middle School. Also at the early April School Board meeting was Frank Kohlasch, Air Assessment Manager with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

The study by both organizations was developed to specifically evaluate the potential for significant air quality impacts due to increased truck traffic along 3rd Street. The comparison was made between 4,200 vehicles in the area daily at Oltman to that of an area within the twin cities with as many as 277,000 vehicles daily.

Currently, Oltman Middle School is proposed to be remodeled as a home school for Nuevas Fronteras Spanish Immersion. An unrelated plan nearby is the development of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) site that will allow for parking of 6,000 automobiles, where the automobiles will be transferred from rail to trucks for distribution to a 5-state area. Concern was expressed for potential health impacts of approximately 130 trucks per day passing the school site while going to and from the proposed transfer site. The evaluation looked at criteria pollutants and air toxin levels at comparison sites in the metro area that have significantly higher traffic volumes than 3rd Street to determine the relative air quality at 3rd Street.

In general, vehicles and traffic are considered to contribute around a quarter of the overall air pollution in MN. However, as local quantitative and qualitative data from MPCA demonstrate, that even at high traffic levels local air quality does not exceed levels that are known to cause significant health problems. Criteria Pollutants - From the measurement data, each measured area is significantly below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. With the additional 260 trucks on 3rd street, the air quality along 3rd Street will not experience a significant change over the existing conditions.

The School Board report is available on the district’s website.

It is anticipated that the School Board will proceed with plans to move Nuevas Fronteras Spanish Immersion to the existing Oltman Middle in the fall of 2018 and complete proposed upgrades to the facility over the course of two summers. Action is expected at the April 27 School Board meeting.