Best gas station health impact testimony

For the past six months it’s been my pleasure to assist the Carmel Healthy Neighborhood Alliance with concerns regarding the proposed West Clay Family Express gas station. 

The Alliance launched a campaign to win a minimum 500-foot public health safety zone for all new gas stations proposed for sites in Carmel, Indiana.  They won the support of their City Council representative, Miles Nelson, who convinced his colleagues to consider an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) requiring the 500-foot setback. 

On May 18th, Alliance co-chairs Jackie Phillips and Heather Misra testified before the Carmel Plan Commission regarding the many reasons they should urge the City Council to adopt the amendment.  Jackie presented the following testimony which is the best I’ve heard in several decades of helping folks get the benefits of gas stations without jeopardizing public health.  Apparently the Commissioners agreed since they called for not just recommending adoption but changes that would make it even more protective.  You can view Jackie’s testimony, which begins at 52 minutes, at:

Thank you Planning Commission members for taking the time to listen, to Adrienne for presenting, for Councilmember Rider for sponsoring, for Councilmember Nelson for supporting, and for the guidance of Mr. Hollibaugh on this Amendment.

I’d like to start by asking a simple question.

How many of you know someone who has been diagnosed with or died from cancer?

Now, how many of you would have taken every opportunity possible to have prevented that cancer?

THIS is one of those opportunities.

  • Lung cancer,
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,
  • Chronic lymphoid leukemia,
  • Multiple myeloma,
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia,
  • Acute myeloid leukemia, and
  • Childhood leukemia

These are some of the cancers directly linked to benzene, and this is why I am here.

Benzene was something I didn’t know about until 11 months ago. It is a natural byproduct of gasoline, and it is released at the vents from Underground Storage Tanks, car exhausts, and at gas pumps. It’s known to cause over 7 different types of cancer, as well as other health and respiratory issues. I wouldn’t have known what benzene was if a gas station wasn’t proposed to come to my neighborhood. It was to be built less than 100 feet from where senior citizens live, 300 feet from where residents live, and 900 feet from where developing children attend Primrose.

Because of this, I poured over studies and statistics conducted by leading universities & doctors from John Hopkins, Columbia University, American Cancer Society, and the U.S. Department of Health.

All of which showed that there is no safe amount of exposure to benzene. And while vapor recovery systems are sometimes in place to help remove Benzene at gas pumps, unfortunately, these systems have been proven to not effectively scrub all the vapors, thus exposing those living within 500 ft to toxic levels of Benzene.

In my research I learned that other cities around the United States, including Indiana, have safety precautions preventing gas stations from being built near homes. To my surprise I learned that the City of Carmel had very limited protections
Planning commission members, I am asking you to approve this amendment to the UDO to protect the well-being and health of all Carmel residents. And if you should need any further encouragement beyond the studies and statistics that we have shared with you today; I ask you, would you put your parents in a nursing home next to a gas station, would you put your children in a school next to a gas station, and most importantly would you place your family’s home next to a gas station?

Planning Commission Members, I am asking you to take this opportunity to amend the Unified Development Ordinance for gas station setbacks and Carmel Homes.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

If you’d like to learn more about the negative harmful implications of gas stations, I’d be more than happy to arrange a meeting for the Planning Commission to speak with Dr. Markus Hilpert with Columbia University or any of the experts who have done extensive research on Benzene.

For further detail about the victory this testimony helped win see:

To learn more about getting gas station benefits without jeopardizing neighborhood health, visit:

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