Marywood Healthy Neighborhoods Alliance
On behalf of your neighbors Steven Brengman, Jennifer Fearday, Jackie d’Escoto, and the Marywood Healthy Neighborhoods Alliance, thank you for helping to convince the Aurora City Council to deny approval of the Circle K gas station by a vote of 8 to 5. Because of a petition filed by Steve, Circle K needed 9 votes to win.
If it weren’t for the leadership of Alderman Emmanuel Llamas, this victory would not have been possible.
So please take a moment to thank Alderman Llamas via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or with a call: 630-272-4225.
Marywood residents recently formed the Healthy Neighborhoods Alliance in response to a proposal to site yet another gas station in their community. The proposed gas station, a Circle K, is proposed for the site shown in the aerial below, which is at the northwest corner of Molitor Road and Farnsworth Avenue.
The Alliance retained Community & Environmental Defense Services (CEDS) to assess the potential effects of the proposed gas station on the health and quality-of-life of area residents. Unfortunately, the CEDS analysis determined that the project will likely result in adverse health effects to area residents living within the red circle in the aerial above, and possibly those living in the yellow 1,000-foot circle too.
These adverse effects would result from:
- Benzene and other compounds released to the atmosphere from underground gasoline storage tank vents and while gas is being dispensed at the pump which can cause nausea, cancer and low-birth weight.
- Area residents may be at risk of well contamination due not so much to leaking underground storage tanks but from gas spilled at the pump.
The science and other facts supporting these adverse health effect concerns is provided below.
Please Sign Our Petition
The Aurora City Council has been asked to approve the Circle K gas station as a Condition Use. We believe the adverse effects outlined above violate three of the required findings for granting the Circle K Conditional Use approval.
On Tuesday, April 27th, the Aurora City Council will hold a hearing on the Circle K Conditional Use application. Please sign our petition urging the City Council to deny the Conditional Use approval.
Just before the April 27th hearing we’ll provide petition signers with details on how to voice their concerns during the hearing as well as how to let Council members know of concerns via email, a phone call or by letter.
The aerial below shows the location of the more than 400 area residents who’ve signed our petition already. The reasons offered by many for signing the petition can be seen at: https://ceds.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Reasons-Why-So-Many-Residents-Signed-The-Preserving-Aurora-Neighborhood-Health-Safety-From-The-Proposed-Gas-Station-Petition-4-27-2021.pdf
Public Health & Gasoline Dispensing-Storage Emissions Science
A number of compounds injurious to human health are released from gas stations during vehicle fueling and from underground storage tank vents: benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene (BTEX). Of these, benzene is the gasoline constituent most harmful to human health. Adverse health effects of benzene include cancer, anemia, increased susceptibility to infections, and low birth weight.
According to the World Health Organization Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality, there is no safe level for benzene. As explained later below, measures to reliably resolve these adverse health effects are not employed at new gas stations in Illinois.
In 2005, the California Air Resources Board recommended a minimum 300-foot public health safety zone between new gas stations and “sensitive land uses such as residences, schools, daycare centers, playgrounds, or medical facilities.” The recommendation appeared in Air Quality and Land Use Handbook: A Community Health Perspective.
The State of California is widely recognized as having some of the most effective air pollution control requirements in the nation. Yet even with California controls a minimum separation is still required to protect public health.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency echoed concerns about the health risk associated with gas station emissions in their School Siting Guidelines. The USEPA recommended screening – but not excluding – school sites for potential health risk when located within 1,000 feet of a gas station.
The safety zone distances were prompted by the growing body of research showing that adverse health effects extend further and further from gas stations.
A seminal 2015 study contained the following summary regarding the health implications of living, working or learning near a gas station:
“Health effects of living near gas stations are not well understood. Adverse health impacts may be expected to be higher in metropolitan areas that are densely populated. Particularly affected are residents nearby gas stations who spend significant amounts of time at home as compared to those who leave their home for work because of the longer period of exposure. Similarly affected are individuals who spend time close to a gas station, e.g., in close by businesses or in the gas station itself. Of particular concern are children who, for example, live nearby, play nearby, or attend nearby schools, because children are more vulnerable to hydrocarbon exposure.”
A 2019 study of U.S. gas stations found that benzene emissions from underground gasoline storage tank vents were sufficiently high to constitute a health concern at a distance of up to 518-feet. Also, the researchers noted:
“emissions were 10 times higher than estimates used in setback regulations [like that in the California handbook] used to determine how close schools, playgrounds, and parks can be situated to the facilities [gas stations].”
Control Measures Will Not Resolve Benzene Emissions Health Threat
The two most common control measures are Stage II Vapor Recovery and Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery (ORVR).
A decade ago, most gas pump nozzles were designed to capture vapors released during refueling. The vapors were then sent to the 10,000- to 20,000-gallon underground tanks where gasoline is stored. These Stage II vapor recovery systems were phased out beginning in 2012 as a result of the widespread use of Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery (ORVR) systems.
As the name implies, Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery systems are built into new cars. The system captures vapors during refueling which are then stored in canisters within the vehicle.
A study published in February, 2020, examined the effectiveness of Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery systems. The researchers found that 88% of vehicles monitored released vapors during refueling despite the presence of Onboard Refueling Vapor Recovery systems.
The unfortunate conclusion from these studies is that we cannot rely upon controls required for new gas stations to resolve the health and safety threat to those who living in the vicinity of the proposed Circle K.
Discussions with Illinois EPA Bureau of Air Quality officials indicate that Illinois does not require measures that might resolve the public health impact. Therefore, the only available measure which can minimize adverse health effects of benzene emissions is to guide new gas stations to locations where the site is at least 500 feet from residentially zoned properties, schools, and other location where people regularly spend extended periods of time, especially the young and old.
Groundwater Contamination Potential
Those residing in a number of homes near the Circle K site rely on groundwater drawn from shallow wells for drinking, cooking, bathing and other household needs. Below is a map from the Kane County 2030 Land Resource Management Plan. This map shows the vulnerability of Kane County aquifers to contamination. The location of the Circle K site is noted on the map below. The Circle K site and nearby homes are within an area rated C1 which equates to Moderate Potential for Aquifer Contamination.
In the past, leaking underground fuel storage tanks were viewed as the most likely cause of groundwater contamination due to gas stations. However, as tank design, installation and monitoring have improved, other potential contamination sources emerged.
A 2015 study documented that 40 gallons of gasoline is spilled at the pump annually at a typical gas station. This same study revealed that the spilled gas can travel down through the concrete pads present at most pumps to possibly contaminate underlying groundwaters.
As with benzene releases, there are no control measures required for new gas stations in Illinois that can resolve the potential for groundwater contamination due to gasoline spillage at the pump. Allowing yet another gas station so close to wells in an area at Moderate Potential for Aquifer Contamination poses an undue threat to the health and welfare of nearby residents.
Conditional Use Required Findings Not Met
Section 34-503, of Chapter 34 of the Aurora Code of Ordinances, sets forth seven findings required to approve a Conditional Use. The adverse effects of benzene emissions and the potential for well contamination cause the proposed Circle K to fail to meet the following required findings:
- Will the establishment, maintenance or operation of the conditional use be unreasonably detrimental to or endanger the public health, safety, morals, comfort, or general welfare?
- Will the conditional use will be injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the immediate vicinity for the purposes already permitted or will substantially diminish and impair property values within the neighborhood; factors including but not limited to, lighting, signage and outdoor amplification, hours of operation, refuse disposal areas and architectural compatibility and building orientation?
- Will the establishment of the conditional use impede the normal and orderly development and improvement of surrounding property for uses permitted in the district?
Adverse Effects Uniquely Severe at the Proposed Circle K Site
There are already two gas stations in close proximity to the proposed Circle K site – an existing Circle K and a Marathon station. These existing sources of benzene and the potential groundwater contamination sources combine with the very close proximity to homes and Moderate Potential for Aquifer Contamination to create a set of conditions unique to the site that may cause adverse health effects to be significantly greater than many other possible locations. In fact, measurements made by CEDS of a sampling of existing Aurora area gas stations shows that a fourth are more than 500 feet from the nearest home. In other words, there are likely a number of sites throughout Aurora where new gas station benefits could be gained without jeopardizing the health of nearby residents.