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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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New Wash. air-quality monitors draw critique from green groups

Advocates say state should spend more to reduce pollution

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SEATTLE—Half a dozen areas around Puget Sound, and even more across the rest of Washington, will soon see a new piece of technology to confirm what many residents already know: that they suffer from rampant pollution.

Washington’s Department of Ecology announced Tuesday it will install 50 new air-quality monitors in 16 communities with poor air quality and a vulnerable population.

But some environmental justice advocates say the new monitors aren’t enough and that a higher proportion of money collected from the state’s carbon-pricing auctions, which are funding the new air monitors, should be spent on communities most vulnerable to climate change.

State officials should follow through with actions to cleanse the air of pollution, said Esther Min, director of environmental health research for the nonprofit Front and Centered Washington.

“Science is only useful if you make use of the data,” Min said.

A recent analysis from the nonprofit indicates that money from the 2021 Climate Commitment Act, which puts a price on greenhouse gases emitted in the state, isn’t going toward overburdened communities as much as politicians had promised.

State officials say the new monitors are an important step in learning where air pollution, specifically particulate matter from sources like wildfires and wood-burning stoves, hits the worst and directing their resources accordingly.

“This is a targeting device,” Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday. “We have a great instrument to generate weapons in the war against pollution.”

Inslee and other state officials also underscored their commitment to protecting overburdened communities with the state’s climate funds.

Watch out for errant golf balls, Inslee warned Tuesday afternoon as he toured the Jefferson Park-Beacon Hill Air Monitoring Station.

The air-quality station has been running for decades, said Jill Schulte, Ecology’s statewide ambient air monitoring coordinator, but the governor was on-site to examine five new additions hanging on a bit of chain-link fence.

The sensors, called SensWA, are small, less than a cubic foot, with a clear plastic front. They’re inexpensive and so lightweight that they can hang almost anywhere, Schulte said. And they’re specifically designed to measure levels of PM2.5 in the air.

PM2.5 stands for particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers, which can be inhaled and cause or exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular issues. Common sources of this type of pollution include wildfire smoke, wood-burning stoves and vehicle emissions.

Twenty SensWA sensors are working across the state including in Vancouver said Susan Woodward, a spokesperson for Ecology.

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