Wentzville Healthy Neighborhoods Alliance

Getting the Benefits of New Gas-Diesel Stations Without Jeopardizing the Health of Wentzville Residents

Please sign our petition urging the Wentzville Mayor & Board of Alderman to enact public health safety zones between new gas stations and our homes.

A truck stop has been proposed for the northeast corner of Interstate Drive and Prospect Road along the southwest side of I-64 in Wentzville. As shown in the aerial below, the truck stop site is a mere 150 feet from the nearest home and neighborhood.

The scientific studies summarized below document that allowing a truck stop with gas-diesel pumps on this site will jeopardize the health of those living within 500- to 1,000-feet and possibly up to a half-mile distant. Unfortunately, there are no control measures required for new gas-diesel stations in Missouri that can reliably resolve the public health impact.  Equally unfortunate is that the City of Wentzville Land Use Code lack the safeguards adopted by a number of U.S. cities to guide new gas-diesel stations to low-impact sites.

It is for this reason that we hope you will sign our petition urging the Wentzville Mayor and Board of Aldermen to amend the Land Use Code to require a minimum 500-foot public health safety zone between new gas-diesel stations (including truck stops) and homes. The safety zone will not apply to existing gas stations nor would it preclude new gas-diesel stations in Wentzville. Instead it would guide new gas-diesel stations to locations where the benefits can be enjoyed without jeopardizing the health of nearby residents.

Why We Formed the Wentzville Healthy Neighborhoods Alliance

After learning of this proposal, residents of the:

  • Bluffs at Heather Glenn,
  • Manors at Quail Ridge,
  • Villas at Quail Ridge,
  • The Woods, and
  • Prospect Lakes neighborhoods

began researching whether there were reasons to be concerned about having a truck stop close to our homes.  We learned that truck stops are considered a high-intensity land use not usually permitted so close (within 150 feet) to homes and neighborhoods.  Of the various adverse effects that may result from the proposed truck stop, the potential harm to public health is the greatest concern.  According to the CEDS gas stations webpage, adverse health effects would result from:

  • benzene and other harmful compounds released to the air from underground fuel storage tank vent pipes and during refueling at the pumps, and
  • the particulate matter emitted from diesel truck engines.

The CEDS webpage has a long list of other cities and counties that have adopted regulations to guide the ever dwindling number of new gas stations to low-impact sites. After learning that the Wentzville Land Use Code lacks these safeguards we decided to form the Wentzville Healthy Neighborhoods Alliance to unite the communities threatened by the proposed truck stop.  We then retained CEDS to assist in forming a strategy to protect our neighborhoods and others throughout Wentzville.

For further information contact Alliance chair Andrew Pope at (773) 383-2428 or  andypope@sbcglobal.net.

Health Effects: Is It Safe to Live Near a Gas Station?

A number of compounds injurious to human health are released from gas stations during vehicle fueling and from underground storage tank vents.  These harmful compounds include: 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, measures to reliably resolve these adverse health effects are not employed at new gas stations.

In 2005, the California Air Resources Board was possibly the first state agency to call for a minimum 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 was 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].”

Prior to the 2019 study it was thought that most of the benzene was released at the pump during fueling.

Control Measures Will Not Resolve 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 to capture 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 State of Missouri does not require measures to control release of benzene from gas station storage tank vents.

The 2019 study cited previously addressed the release of benzene from underground gasoline storage tank vents. The 2019 study documented that the amount of benzene released was substantial and could be detected at a distance of up to 524 feet.

The unfortunate conclusion from these studies is that we cannot rely upon controls required for new gas stations and newer cars to resolve the health and safety threat to those who live, learn, or work in the vicinity. At this point physical distancing of 500 feet or more is the only measure that appears to resolve the public health and safety impact.

Diesel Emissions & Public Health

There’s a large and growing body of research documenting the adverse effects of diesel engine particulate emissions on respiratory health.  One of the best summaries of this research can be found in the 2005 Clean Air Task Force report Diesel and Health in America: The Lingering Threat.  Adverse health effects of diesel emissions listed on page 9, of the report include:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms and heart attacks and atherosclerosis;
  • Increased incidence of stroke;
  • Permanent respiratory damage, characterized by fibrosis causing obstruction to airflow;
  • Chronic adverse effects on lung development resulting in deficits in lung function.

A table on page 7, of the report listed Missouri as having the 15th highest death rate in the nation due to diesel emissions.  Saint Louis, MO was ranked the 13th worse of all U.S. metro areas and Kansas City, MO was 32nd with regard to diesel caused deaths.  Note that these statistics are based on 1999 data.

In the 2005 California Air Resources Board (CARB) Air Quality and Landuse Handbook, it was recommended (on page 11) that homes, schools and other sensitive land uses should be located at least 1,000 feet from any facility that would generate 100 or more diesel truck trips per day.

The applicant for the proposed Wentzville truck stop has yet to submit documents giving the number of anticipated truck trips.  However, traffic studies for three other similar truck stops indicated the Wentzville facility could generate a thousand truck trips per day.

In 2021, the California South Coast Air Quality Management District  assessed the need to regulate diesel emissions from warehouses of 100,000 square feet or more.  Such a warehouse would generate about 60 truck trips per day.  The District found the impact substantial and adopted a regulation requiring that warehouse owners  take measures to reduce the health impacts of trucks as well as other diesel-gasoline powered vehicles.  The measures include zero or near-zero emission trucks, diesel exhaust filters, etc.

The Socioeconomic Impact Assessment for this regulation noted that emissions from a warehouse of 100,000 square feet or more can affect the health of those living 0.5- to 2.0-miles distant.  If it is correct that the proposed Wentzville truck stop will generate a thousand truck trips per day then the impact zone could extend beyond 500- to 1,000 feet.

Minimum 500-Foot Public Health Safety Zone Needed

As noted above, current research documents that benzene can be detected at a distance of more than 500 feet from a gas station.  Diesel particulates may affect the health of those living 1,000 feet to a half-mile away. This is why we’re calling upon the Wentzville Mayor and Board of Aldermen to adopt a minimum 500-foot public health safety zone between new gas-diesel station sites and homes, including the proposed truck stop. So, please sign our petition urging them to do so.

Safety Zone Will Guide New Gas Stations To Lower-Impact Wentzville Sites

For reasons explained in the video at the following address, new gas stations tend to locate near existing ones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4cKzGj58q4. The aerial below shows the location of 12 existing gas stations in the Wentzville area. Gas station with red circles are within 500 feet of a home. Those with green circles are more than 500 feet from the nearest home.

Of the 12 stations, 8 (67%) would meet the 500-foot public health safety zone, though the requirement would only apply to new stations, not existing. Therefore, it is unlikely the health protection setback will preclude new gas stations in Wentzville. Instead, new stations would be guided to sites where we can gain the benefits without jeopardizing the health of our neighbors.

Most Truck Stops Are Far From Homes

There are 19 existing truck stops in Missouri that are part of the same chain as that  proposed for the Wentzville site.  The 19 existing Missouri truck stops average more than 2,000- and 4,000-feet, respectively, from the nearest home and neighborhood.  The nearest is 540 feet from a home or neighborhood.  Compared to these 19 existing Missouri facilities, the truck stop proposed for Wentzville would be alarmingly close; just 150 feet from a home and neighborhood.  Given this there seems to be little reason to create a new truck stop so close to homes.

Since Gas Station Numbers are Decreasing, Let’s Guide New Ones to Low-Impact Sites

The number of gas stations in the U.S. has been declining. In 1994, there were 202,800 gas stations across the nation, but by 2012 the number was down to 156,065. The decline can be attributed to cars getting more miles per gallon, thus needing less gas, as well as new stations adding many more pumps. The decline is also due to supermarkets, big-box stores and others using cheap gas outside to draw customers inside. The pace of decline is likely to accelerate in the near future thanks to the switch to electric vehicles. Given that there will be ever fewer gas stations, decision-makers should guide new ones to low-impact locations at least 500 feet from the nearest home.