SOUTH PORTLAND ⁠— The city will put its money where its mouth is to address worries about air quality.

The council voted unanimously Sept. 10 to create a Clean Air Advisory Committee, re-purposing $30,000 from the $100,000 from the fiscal year 2020 Waterfront Master Plan to cover expenses.

“This will be the beginning of something really important,” Councilor April Carichillo said. “I don’t think a lot will slide under the radar and I feel pretty confident about this.”

The $30,000 would be used to hire a facilitator and cover other costs, such as recording and broadcasting meetings.

South Portland has been grappling with air quality since several U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allegations that Global Partners LLC violated its air emissions license and emitted more volatile organic compounds than allowed from its petroleum tank facility at 1 Clark Road.

More recently, data presented at a meeting Aug. 20 suggests combustion engines, and not oil tanks, were the biggest culprits in pollution.

The data, gathered by volunteers, looked at 13 samples taken across the city since June 10. Eight handheld canisters have been provided to residents since then, with 36 samples returned to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The new committee will be tasked with compiling a list of potential air quality concerns within 30 days of their appointment. The group will collaborate with municipalities to address acute air quality issues and establish a means to obtain data on air quality and enforce standards.

They also amended the definition of acute air quality issues, adding that it includes odors that unreasonably interfere with the enjoyment of life and property, specifically due to odor.

The city will begin advertising for applicants to serve on the committee within the next week; applications will be accepted through Oct. 1. On Oct. 8, the council will select five members from the field through ranked-choice voting.

The committee will also be made up of at least two representatives in professions such as environmental engineering, law, chemistry and public health.

“I hope the precautionary principle will be taken into account in the work of this committee … taking preventative action in the face of uncertainty and shifting the burden of proof to the proponents of an activity,” coordinator for Protect South Portland, Roberta Zuckerman, said.

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