Heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, CultureShift

EPA Grant Allows EGLE To Plan for Enhanced Air Monitoring In SE Michigan In 2021

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Image credit: Sandra Svoboda

Current air monitoring efforts have limitations in what can be tracked. This federal grant funding allows for more detailed tracking and potentially, higher accountability from industry sources.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently selected Michigan to receive a $500,000 grant to go toward community-scale air monitoring. The project, run by the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy or EGLE, will allow for the study of ambient air toxics in several southeast Michigan counties.

Mary Ann Dolehanty is the director of EGLE’s Air Quality Division. She says the grant funding will allow scientists to generate real-time data for air pollutants in the area.

We’re pretty excited about (the grant-funded study) because our current air monitoring stations have some limitations,” says Dolehanty, who notes that the current model allows for monitoring certain pollutants that are required under the Clean Air Act, “but no single monitor can monitor for everything.” 

Why It Matters

In looking at the ways that air pollution affects health outcomes, Dolehanty says that some of the most well-known impacts are human airway diseases like asthma and other respiratory diseases and cancer. “We have a lot of industry in the Detroit area and Wayne county and right now, we estimate what those pollutants would be, and we do that on a worst-case basis calculating if they were to be operating these industries at maximum-type scenarios and then we model those to determine impacts,” says Dolehanty. 

What’s The Current Picture of Air Pollution in Southeast Michigan?

When evaluating the overall picture of air pollution and toxicity in Southeast Michigan, Dolehanty says there are a couple of areas that are not meeting the current federal standard for specific pollutants. She says her department is working “very carefully and closely to develop plans to bring those areas back to attaining those standards.” She points to an area in Wayne County not meeting the federal standard for sulfur dioxide and multiple areas in the region are currently not meeting the federal requirement for a pollutant called ozone.

The Game Plan

Dolehanty says the plan is to collect data to develop a series of control strategies to identify the potential sources where pollution may be coming from and implement some practices to reduce emissions from those specific facilities. The study funded by the EPA’s grant funding will be conducted in the summer of 2021 and will give EGLE more information on a variety of air pollutants including air toxics. Dolehanty says the time of year for rolling out the study is important because her department “wants to capture worst case scenarios,” which tend to happen during the warmer weather months. 

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Annamarie Sysling, Producer, Detroit Today

Annamarie Sysling is a producer for “Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson.” When she’s not at work, Sysling is likely walking or biking somewhere in the city, listening to a neuroscience podcast or eating ice cream.

annamarie.sysling@wdet.org Follow @asysling

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