4 The record articles

Ambient Monitoring Networks and Environmental Justice

Posted: August 5th, 2021

Authors: Dustin S. 

In May 2021 the Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA) virtually presented the Air Quality Measurements Conference.  Amongst the many discussions around the advancements in measurements of air quality, the most common themes revolved around the advancement of citizen-science air quality monitoring and environmental justice monitoring efforts.  Below is a summary of how these advancements would impact your Facility, and how ALL4 can support.

Advancements in technology/low cost instrumentation

The scientific community is creating measurement instruments for pollutants we didn’t have the capability to realize even a few decades ago (example: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)).  As measurement capabilities become enhanced, as does the availability of affordable monitoring instrumentation.  Citizen-science air quality monitors – monitors that are priced to purchase by the general public and are widely available with little direction required for setup, use, and data collection – are starting to become a household item and it is projected to continue moving that way.

Citizen-science monitor networks (e.g., PurpleAir)

Networks utilizing citizen-science monitoring equipment are starting to become more and more prevalent (for example, PurpleAir Particulate Matter monitors. Monitoring networks allow for air quality to be evaluated on a smaller resolution and can help pinpoint local impacts or lead to further studies.  As a result of the citizen-science monitoring networks, a tremendous amount of data is being collected.  The public could be evaluating the impacts of your Facility with the data collected and may not be the best suited to understand and interpret the results of monitoring.  Due to the public access of most citizen-science monitoring networks, ALL4 is equipped to evaluate and interpret any data that is collected.

Drivers for monitoring networks

California enacted a statewide program (Assembly Bill 617) in 2017 to reduce air pollution in communities that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution.  The program relies on community partnerships for monitoring air quality.  The objectives of Assembly Bill 617 include: better understanding of emissions sources, establishing a baseline of air pollutants, support development and implementation of emissions reductions strategies, and making the air pollution data accessible to the public.  The community partnerships with the program established in Assembly Bill 617 could pave the way for environmental justice monitoring efforts in the future for California and be a model for the rest of the nation.

Funding monitoring networks

Funding is out there for people and organizations to set up networks of air quality monitors.  Presentations at the Measurements Conference showed multiple examples of non-profit companies forming partnerships with local organizations, agencies, and consultants to establish monitoring of air quality to promote environmental and social well-being along with environmental justice.  The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) issued a $200,000 grant opportunity on July 20, 2021 for all municipalities of Massachusetts to receive PurpleAir sensors at no cost to the communities to measure fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in an effort to direct monitoring to benefit environmental justice communities and to address environmental inequities.

Are monitoring networks compliant with federal reference methods?

Community led monitoring networks that use lower cost monitors do not meet Federal Reference Method (FRM) standards and therefore cannot be relied upon for compliance type-analyses.  FRM monitors are required for determining attainment status and evaluating potential health impacts.  Community organized low cost monitoring networks are routinely relying on FRM monitors to be located within the monitoring grid to quality assure the low cost monitor data and apply correction factors for any data trends analyzed.  Monitoring networks can be used in conjunction with local air quality modeling to support air quality forecasting efforts and for predicting pollutant concentrations in the monitoring network region or could be used as indicators for where FRM monitoring may need to occur.

How may this impact your facility/How can ALL4 help?

Two California examples of low-cost monitoring networks were presented at the A&WMA Measurements conference (both being a community driven effort, one in southern California, the other in San Francisco).  If it’s happening in California, it’s likely on the way to the rest of the US soon!  In fact, on July 27, 2021, Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey, Chair of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clear Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, introduced the Environmental Justice Air Quality Monitoring Act that would direct EPA to provide $100 million in annual funding in order to deploy hyperlocal air quality monitoring systems across environmental justice communities starting in 2022.  This will be a catalyst for expediting these programs across the country.  Organizations and communities could be planning and deploying these monitoring networks near your Facility.

ALL4 has experience using the low-cost monitors and can assist facilities with exploratory monitoring efforts in cases where community monitoring is taking place near a facility.  ALL4 has conducting FRM and co-located citizen science monitoring for sites that had small community monitoring networks set up around facilities to compare the representativeness of community monitors and background concentrations to site specific FRM data.

If you are at a facility that requires or is looking to confirm background pollutant concentrations using a monitoring network and/or FRM technologies for any project, you will need to be aware of how to properly site and locate air quality monitors.  There are many complexities to planning, conducting monitoring, and summarizing monitoring results and ALL4 is here to help.  We here at ALL4 can help you determine how monitoring can assist or is required for your project.  If you have any questions regarding air quality monitoring please contact Dustin Snare at 610-933-5246×126 or dsnare@all4inc.com.






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