Andrea Wittchen, president of the Lehigh Sustainability Network, said a large amount of diesel traffic passes through South Bethlehem daily, which lowers air quality. It can cause cardiovascular problems and affect people with asthma or other lung problems.
Environmental science professor Benjamin Felzer said diesel engines are a major source of air pollution, due to Lehigh Valley warehouses and heavy truck traffic.
“The other interesting thing is that the Lehigh Valley may have worse pollutants than some surrounding areas due to the nature of the valley,” he said.
Kevin Stewart, director of environmental health for the American Lung Association, said the lack of environmentally friendly transportation on the South Side also contributes to poor air quality and encourages carpooling where possible. .
“Most communities recognize that transportation is one of the biggest sources of local air pollution, so you want to encourage a decrease in single occupant vehicles and find out how you can encourage that. “, did he declare.
Wittchen said there needs to be more outreach and community involvement. She said that was lacking on the south side and has always been a challenge for residents who live near flooded areas and are affected by poor air quality.
witchen said programs must be put in place to remedy the bad habits that the city encourages through its urban planning and the facilities offered to the inhabitants.
“We have tractor-trailers driving through our businesses on the other side of the river which are spitting out small particles and degrading the air quality on the south side of Bethlehem in particular,” Wittchen said.
Stewart said the outdated infrastructure of many South Bethlehem homes is not equipped for the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, which the city needs to address to improve the health and safety of South Side residents.
Felzer said air quality is affected by sulphate aerosols which cool the climate, while black carbon inversely warms the climate, creating competing effects that generate climate extremes. He said this is especially noticeable during the hot summers here in south Bethlehem.
“When we have heat waves in the summer, I think our biggest problem is that not everyone can afford an air conditioner,” Felzer said. “In fact, I know people who are considering moving north from the Lehigh Valley because it’s just too expensive to cool their homes in the summer with all these heat waves. It’s uncomfortable to sit inside during the day when it’s so hot outside.
witchen said outdated heating systems in the homes of many residents also interfere with the area becoming more environmentally friendly.
Wittchen said many older homes in the area still operate with older heating systems that can be dirty, polluting and inefficient.
She said there must be a way for low-income people in these communities to make their homes more energy efficient at an affordable price. This would require switching to another source of heating or possibly putting solar panels on their roofs to “provide better solutions for low-income communities”.
Wittchen said how the community addresses these various environmental issues needs to be addressed through better resident involvement in council decisions.
“One of the things we had suggested was that these public meetings, some of them be specifically focused on inviting community leaders, the types of communities that are most affected by this, to the meetings or the holding meetings in their communities,” she said. “For example, at a community center or a local church, where they usually go to meet, and it’s convenient so you don’t have to drive there.”
Felzer said that when it comes to future real estate developments, it is essential that the city can balance the importance of modernization and sustainability in urban planning.
“I will emphasize that there must be a balance between development and making development sustainable,” he said. “This will be the main challenge to continue to develop the city of Bethlehem.”