If the proposal to build the world’s largest methanol plant on the Tacoma Tideflats goes forward, the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health wants city planners to consider a rigorous study of health effects.
The study, called a health impact assessment, would examine “unintended consequences to both the environment and public health” that may not be addressed by the city’s environmental review process.
Methanol project proponent Northwest Innovation Works paused the city’s environmental review of its project in February.
Board of Health vice chairman Rick Talbert, also a Pierce County councilman, said the Board of Health wanted to take advantage of the pause by examining whether an examination of health impacts would be valuable for projects like the methanol facility.
“Let’s look at it now, while nothing is transpiring with this particular project,” Talbert said Tuesday. “I certainly don’t want to create another regulatory hurdle if there isn’t any overall benefit.”
The Board of Health will consider a resolution Wednesday afternoon, April 6, to ask the city to complete an impacts assessment for the project. Another resolution asks local leaders to require such studies for all large-scale projects that could affect human health. A third resolution asks state legislators to amend state law to require the studies statewide.
“Large industrial projects,” the resolution reads, “can have unintended consequences on both the environment and public health that the Environmental Impact Statement process may not adequately address or evaluate.”
Such studies explore how large projects affect human health in many areas, and include negative impacts to vulnerable people. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department most recently completed a 176-page health impacts assessment in 2010 for the redevelopment of Puyallup’s South Hill neighborhood.
The study would look at cumulative impacts to health, not just at the time the project is built.
Members of the board of health include Pierce County council members, Tacoma City Council members, medical professionals and representatives from small cities in Pierce County. The meeting will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the health department building, 3629 S. D Street.