Andrea Wittchen, chair of the Lehigh Sustainability Network, said a large amount of diesel traffic passes through south Bethlehem daily, which decreases air quality. It can cause cardiovascular problems and affect people with asthma or other lung problems.
Benjamin Felzer, professor of environmental sciences, 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 can 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 has also contributed to poor air quality and encourages carpooling to the extent of possible.
“Most communities recognize that transportation is one of the biggest sources of air pollution locally, so you want to encourage the situation of single occupant vehicles to decrease and find out how you can encourage it. “, did he declare.
Wittchen said there needs to be more community awareness and involvement. She said this is lacking on the south side and has always been a challenge for residents who live near areas that are flooded and affected by poor air quality.
Wittchen said programs must be put in place to fight against the bad habits that the city encourages through its town planning and the facilities offered to residents.
“We have semi-trailers running through our businesses across the river that spit out small particles and degrade the air quality on the south side of Bethlehem in particular,” Wittchen said.
Stewart said the old-fashioned infrastructure of many homes in southern Bethlehem is not equipped to switch from fossil fuels to renewables, which the city must take into account to improve the health and safety of residents of Bethlehem. South Side.
Felzer said air quality is affected by sulphate aerosols which cool the climate, while black carbon conversely warms the climate, creating competing effects that generate climate extremes. He said this is especially noticeable during the hot summers here in southern 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. “I actually know of people who plan to leave Lehigh Valley to move further north 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.
Wittchen 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 which can be dirty, polluting and inefficient.
She said there has to 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 to low-income communities.”
Wittchen said the way the community approaches these various environmental issues must be addressed through better participation of residents in council decisions.
“One of the things we had suggested was that these public meetings, some of them specifically focused on inviting community leaders, the types of communities most affected by this, to meetings or 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 handy 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 stress that there must be a balance between development and making development sustainable,” he said. “This will be the main challenge in the future: how to continue to develop the city of Bethlehem. ”