Resident concerns raised as air tests begin at Gricignano
Stars and Stripes March 21, 2008
NAPLES, Italy — It’s nice that the Navy and Italian government are testing the air quality at the Gricignano Support Site, but what happens if results determine the air is unhealthy, asked Sarah Wafford.
“By that time, the damage is done. Why should we be their experiments?” said the exasperated 25-year-old, who is about 10 weeks pregnant.
Since moving into base housing at Gricignano about a month ago, Wafford said she sometimes wakes and feels as though she’s “dying for fresh air.”
On Thursday, U.S. and Italians officials placed a van-mounted air monitoring station in the back corner of the support site base. The system will examine weather conditions and test for possible harmful chemicals that could be present in the air, said Felice Nunziata, a nuclear physicist with the Agenzia Regionale Protezione Ambientale Campania, the Italian equivalent to the Environmental Protection Agency.
For a minimum of 15 days beginning Friday, the station will collect air samples to test for the possible presence of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and benzene, to name a few, he said.
Likewise, the station will record meteorological events, from speed and direction of the wind to sun radiation levels, humidity levels and precipitation — elements that could help scientists determine where any pollutants are coming from.
The van is positioned on a patch of grass next to a ball field in the southwest corner of the base, a few blocks from some apartment buildings and near the SS7 highway, but not close enough to the highway that vehicle exhaust would unduly taint the readings, Nunziata said.
Originally, base officials had asked that the station be set up by the hospital, but ARPAC experts determined the amount of vehicle traffic in the busy area could skew readings and not provide an accurate representation of air quality, he said.
ARPAC’s testing will be done in conjunction with, but independent of, analysis by a U.S.-based company contracted by the Navy to conduct a wider environmental screening of the Naples area.
Navy officials intend to post results of tests as they get them on a Naval Support Activity Web site, which includes a section on community health awareness that answers questions in six categories: air; food; garbage collection and recycling; health; health assessment; and water.