Wednesday, April 27, 2016

DEP Expands Particulate Matter Air Monitoring Network

The Department of Environmental Protection Wednesday announced it has launched an unprecedented expansion of the state’s fine particulate matter (PM2.5) ambient air monitoring network to ensure human health is protected in rural Pennsylvania.
“We have heard citizens of this commonwealth express concerns about air quality in areas near natural gas activities,” said DEP Secretary John Quigley. “With this expansion, we can better assess the ambient air in the natural gas regions.”
“Focusing on the regions with significant numbers of natural gas compressor stations, we’re installing continuous PM2.5 samplers in under-monitored areas of the state,” said Quigley. “We simply don’t have data on air quality in these areas. We need that data and monitoring capability to help us understand whether or not there are risks or impacts to public health from current air quality in these areas.”
By the fall of 2017, DEP will expand its existing PM2.5 air monitoring network of 27 monitoring sites by adding continuous PM2.5 samplers in 10 northern tier and southwestern counties.
In addition, health departments in Philadelphia and Allegheny counties operate PM2.5 samplers at 15 monitoring sites, including seven PM2.5 monitors operated by Philadelphia Air Management Services, and eight PM2.5 sensors operated by the Allegheny County Health Department.
As part of DEP’s expansion of the network, continuous PM2.5 monitors recently installed at existing sites in Greene (Holbrook Township) and Bradford (Towanda Township) counties became operational last month.
DEP intends to install PM2.5 monitors in Fayette, Indiana, Lycoming, Susquehanna, and Wyoming, counties by the end of 2016. Monitors will also be installed in Clarion, Jefferson, and McKean counties by the fall of 2017.
The estimated total cost of the project including the purchase, installation, and maintenance of the additional PM2.5 monitors and the cost of replacement equipment over a five-year period is approximately $1.56 Million.
Federal Clean Air Act grant funds received by DEP under the PM2.5 Air Monitoring Network Grant will help defray the cost of Pennsylvania’s expanded air monitoring network.
Fine particulate pollution, including nitrates and sulfates, organic chemicals, metals, soils or dust, are the result of a wide range of industrial processes and fuel combustion, including emissions caused by logging, agriculture, natural gas development and transmission, and vehicles.
The human health impacts from accumulation in the respiratory system include decreased lung function and increased respiratory symptoms and disease. Young children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems including asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis, are especially vulnerable to the effects of particle pollution.
The PM2.5 ambient air monitoring data will be available to the general public via the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AIRNOW system. This data will also be posted on the EPA and DEP websites.
For more information on air monitoring, visit DEP’s Principal Pollutants webpage.
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