An Environmental Partnership in Chelsea MA

US’ 2nd Largest Produce Market and The Chelsea Collaborative Form An Environmental Partnership
by Ellie Goldberg
Chelsea is the 3rd most environmentally overburdened community in Massachusetts.  An urban industrial city across the harbor from Boston, it is home to 40,000 residents (61% non-white 23.3% below poverty line) within 1.8 square miles -- every inch an environmental justice zone.

Chelsea has the highest rate of respiratory illnesses (child-senior), strokes, and cardiovascular disease in Massachusetts. It is in the highest category for expected lifetime cancer cases from diesel pollution (CATF).  Their diesel exhaust level is 5 times the U.S. average (EPA).

On the banks of Chelsea Creek along Chelsea's eastern border are the storage facilities for all of the jet fuel used at Logan International Airport, 80% of the home heating oil used in the region and all the road salt used in eastern Massachusetts.  Chelsea also has heavy diesel trucking corridors that cut through and surround the city servicing many other companies and industries.  Chelsea's New England Produce Center is the 2nd largest produce market in the country.

The Produce Center gets approximately 37,000 “refeers” (refrigerated trucks) deliveries from across the country every year.  With local produce distribution traffic, this adds up to about 2,000 - 3,000 delivery trucks in and out of the market each day. And, there are approximately 250-500 trucks idling at any one time. For extra cold storage space, many companies use stationary "refeers" that are no longer road worthy. Using high sulfur diesel “RED FUEL," they idle 24 hours/day, 365 days/year producing thousands of tons of hazardous pollutants.  (As of June 2010, red fuel will no longer be available for use in refeers.) 

The Chelsea Collaborative, a non profit human service agency, formed a Clean Air Coalition. Under the guidance of RoseAnn Bongiovanni, the Collaborative's associate executive director, the Collaborative was awarded $1.9 million in Recovery Act Funding to Reduce Diesel Emissions and Create Jobs in Chelsea. Forming a first time alliance with The New England Produce Center, the partners will upgrade the truck dock electrification system at the market and repower 79 stationary cold storage trailer with electric engines.

"The members of the New England Produce center are excited about enhancing the air quality by reducing harmful emissions caused by diesel engines. This project allows us to be a better neighbor and member of the community" said Brian Eddy, Sr., General Manager of The New England Produce Center.  "Our objectives from the start of this project were to obtain energy savings, environmental sustainability, and demonstrate community leadership.  We take great pride in our participation and view the project as a major success. The Chelsea Collaborative and its representatives have played an integral part in bringing all of us a better community in which to live and work."

Catherine Maas, an active member of the Chelsea community, a member of the Chelsea Board of Health, and the lead diesel activist for The Chelsea Collaborative, presented the Collaborative's unique community-market environmental partnership at the EPA's 2010 Environmental Justice Conference in New Orleans this past January.  Click here:  New England Produce Market Transport Refrigeration Unit (TRU) Electrification Project (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009)

Roseann Bongiovanni is the Director of the Chelsea Green Space and Recreation Committee, a grassroots environmental group based out of the non-profit agency, the Chelsea Collaborative.  Roseann is a lifelong Chelsea resident.  After graduating from Chelsea High School where she was the Senior Class President, she attended Boston University on a full-tuition scholarship and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Italian.    Roseann was then awarded the Dean’s Scholarship to attend the Boston University School of Public Health where she earned a Master’s Degree concentrating in Environmental Health.   

Roseann is also a Chelsea City Councilor and served as the President of that elected body in 2007.   Roseann was a recipient of the ACE Founders’ Award in 2001; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration named her one of 10 National Environmental Heroes in the Spring of 2006; and she was awarded the All Chelsea Award “Adult Resident of the Year” in 2007.   She has been a guest speaker at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Salem State School of Social Work, Boston University School of Social Work, Boston University Law School and numerous conferences.