CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program will enhance its monitoring of fine particulate matter (PM), a form of air pollution in which the region has some of the highest levels in the state for communities along the I-35 corridor, by purchasing more sophisticated equipment that measures particulates and their composition compared to just detecting their presence. The equipment will let the region monitor fine PM with the same level of scrutiny as it has been doing with ground-level ozone increasing the regions’ ability to collect data and improve air quality planning to protect residents’ health.
The EPA recently awarded CAPCOG $660,000 for two fine PM monitoring projects. The first project will place seven research-grade continuous fine PM monitoring stations strategically across the region, while the other will place one research-grade speciated fine PM monitor strategically in the region. Combined the monitors will help determine how PM moves throughout the region, what particulates are in the air and how both change over time. Presently, CAPCOG is operating eight PM low-cost sensors, which are less reliable and accurate than research grade monitors. The state also operates four regulatory monitors whose sites are selected by the state, none of which are speciated. Knowing what type of particles are in the region’s air pollution, such as Saharan dust, construction dust, combustion particles or excessive pollen, and where they are coming from can help communities take more direct action to reduce their creation and limit their spread.
Because of the region’s high levels of fine PM, it is at risk of entering a nonattainment status of federal standards. The region is currently the largest in the nation to never exceed the federal limits. The grant funding also pays to train Huston-Tillotson University and St. Edwards University faculty and students to operate the monitors and analyze their data.