Polluting ferry boats to get new, less polluting, less noisy, engines

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November 2, 2011

By Steven Greer, MD

The much anticipated BPC CB1 meeting to discuss the ongoing problem of noise and air pollution from the New York Waterway ferry boats yielded significant results for the first time in recent memory. The CEO of the BillyBey Ferry Company (DBA New York Waterway), Paul Goodman, announced that they will be using federal grants and “Nearly $1 Million of BillyBey money” to finally replace the outdated heavily-polluting diesel engines on nine of the worst offending vessels that dock often at WFC Vesey Street slip. The slip is controlled by the Port Authority.

The expected completion date will be mid-year 2012. That coincides with new regulations for marine vessels under the Clean Air Act.

Mr. Goodman elaborated, “Those 18 engines for 9 boats have been ordered. The program is fully funded…and installed over the first half of 2012.” He explained that the current engines, which so infamously now belch pure black diesel particulate smoke (see here) as they dock at the WFC Vesey Street slip fall under “Tier 0” of the EPA classification of engines, according to Mr. Goodman. The new diesel engines with particulate filters will be “Tier 2”. (Note, our Google search of the EPA’s Tier system for engines revealed a system that did not coincide with what the BillyBey Ferry Company listed).

Given that no exhaust emission testings have ever been performed and made public, CB1 member Anthony Notaro tried to clarify whether BPC residents can expect to see, hear, and breath less pollution with the new engines promised. Goodman said, “You will see a significant reduction in pollution”. A spokesman for the DOT elaborated, “You can expect an 85% reduction in pollution (with the new engines).

Skeptics of these new promises from BillyBey Ferry Company have ample justification. The same NYSERD grant that will finally be used to convert the engines has been funded and made available to the company since at least 2006, and the only accomplishments to date from the grant money has been to install some exhaust particulate filters on a few boats and “perform tests”. Only now, after BatteryPark.TV coverage and the involvement of the NRDC, New York Times, EPA, and elected officials, is BillyBey promising to replace the outdated engines.

The Port Authority spokeswoman at the meeting said, “We were aware that the (NYSERD-funded emissions program) was ongoing, but it didn’t move as quickly as we would have liked.”

After more than 20 minutes of the BillyBey CEO and his entourage of supporting government officials speaking (i.e. NYSERD, DOT, consultant to NYSERD, and EPA), vocal residents spoke up requesting that the WFC Vesey Street slip be moved entirely away from the neighborhood. CB1 member Tom Goodkind echoed those views saying, “We should consider removing these boats (from the WFC Vesey Street slip) until these engine retrofits occur.” and received applause.

Recall, the BillyBey Ferry Company is a New Jersey company that exists almost exclusively to haul New Jersey residents to their Manhattan jobs. There is a reason one of the boats is named “U.S. Senate Frank R. Lautenberg“. For decades, this New Jersey-benefiting operation has polluted the air and disturbed the peace in Battery Park City. This might be the beginning of the beginning of a solution to this New Jersey-rooted problem. When new Caterpillar diesel engines are mounted in the boats, we will take our victory lap.

And the full unedited video of all of the different boats polluting equally from EPA Tier-0 “worst¬† category” engines

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