Public Lab Research note

Yellow smoke plume at Lawrence Point, Queens

by warren | March 05, 2014 16:22 05 Mar 16:22 | #10107 | #10107

Yesterday, I was riding the Amtrak train past Lawrence Point in Queens, NY, and saw twin smokestacks emitting clouds. But one of them had a distinctly yellow color. What's up with that? I wonder if we could measure an absorption line with our spectrometers in the sunlight going through that plume.

Anyone know more about this site and what that might be? The site is here:,-73.906075&spn=0.005307,0.006325&t=h&z=18

Here's a Google Maps 3d view of the smokestacks:


Also, doesn't show anything for that site:






With a quick search I found this ( and on page 3-6 it talks about visible gases being nitrogen dioxide which will have a yellowish brown color. I was hunting a bit on google maps and the four stacks are a power plant( Couldnt find anything about the two-stack plant. +1 for tag watchdog!

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Great sleuthing! I don't know much about N02... i assume it's regulated...

I wonder if that plant is always spewing it and if it's legal.

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Nitrogen dioxide is toxic by inhalation. However, as the compound is acrid and easily detectable by smell at low concentrations, inhalation exposure can generally be avoided.

Great resources on the External links section of that wikipedia page:

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ooooh.... found this:

first line says it all!!!! "Nitrogen Oxides are a family of poisonous, highly reactive gases."

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Thats probably the 20th Avenue Astoria Generating Station, a complex of power plants owned owned by US Power Gen , Con ED, NRG Energy, and GDF Suez.

I think the stacks you are looking at are the Coned Station smoke stacks (south of the blue tanks. May still be running on No 6 Fuel oil that the City is trying to phase out in favor of natural gas. In terms of the color, some Fuel Oils still have 0.2% sulfur content, so what you may be seeing with the yellow smoke are concentrated SO2 emissions or some other sulfide additive. However some of the Astoria plant may already be gas turbines. DEP Air Pollution Permits list one of the nearby smokestacks (for their emergency generators) as using Diesel Oil so that's another variable.

To play match the smoke color, there is some data here on what fuel types are being used for the different Queens smokestacks here:

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NRC website is down, so skytruth won't have anything, call 1-800-424-8802. to report a smell or release.

you'll have to say "NCC" or no code, if you don't know what it is

Really i would call NY DEQ or EPA though. ask Liz?


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