Air quality impacts and health-benefit valuation of a low-emission technology for rail yard locomotives in Atlanta Georgia.


One of the largest rail yard facilities in the Southeastern US, the Inman and Tilford yards, is located in the northwestern section of Atlanta, Georgia alongside other industries, schools, businesses, and dwellings. It is a significant source of fine particulate (PM2.5) and black carbon (BC) (Galvis, Bergin, & Russell, 2013). We calculate 2011 PM2.5 and BC emissions from the rail yards and primary industrial and on-road mobile sources in the area and determine their impact on local air quality using Gaussian dispersion modeling. We determine the change in PM2.5 and BC concentrations that could be accomplished by upgrading traditional switcher locomotives used in these rail yards to a lower emitting technology and evaluate the health benefits for comparison with upgrade costs. Emissions from the rail yards were estimated using reported fuel consumption data (GAEPD, 2012b) and emission factors previously measured in the rail yards (Galvis et al., 2013). Model evaluation against 2011 monitoring data found agreement between measured and simulated concentrations. Model outputs indicate that the line-haul and switcher activities are responsible for increments in annual average concentrations of approximately 0.5±0.03 μg/m(3) (39%) and 0.7±0.04 μg/m(3) (56%) of BC, and for 1.0±0.1 μg/m(3) (7%) and 1.6±0.2 μg/m(3) (14%) of PM2.5 at two monitoring sites located north and south of the rail yards respectively. Upgrading the switcher locomotives at the yards with a lower emitting technology in this case "mother slug" units could decrease PM2.5 and BC emissions by about 9 and 3 t/year respectively. This will lower annual average PM2.5 concentrations between 0.3±0.1 μg/m(3) and 0.6±0.1 μg/m(3) and BC concentrations between 0.1±0.02 μg/m(3) and 0.2±0.03 μg/m(3) at monitoring sites north and south of the rail yards respectively, and would facilitate PM2.5 NAAQS attainment in the area. We estimate that health benefits of approximately 20 million dollars per year could be gained.