The first community-led air monitoring network in Texas will oversee a new three-year program tasked with monitoring and improving air quality in the Greater Houston area.


Nearly $500,000 in federal funding from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency was awarded to local nonprofit Achieving Community Tasks Successfully on Nov. 29. ACTS Executive Director Bridgette Murray said in a news release the grant will allow her organization to expand information that is already being monitored as well as interact more directly with local, state and federal agencies.

"Each of our respective communities are currently monitoring air quality with low-cost sensors," Murray said.

The framework

The three-year program will expand health and environmental monitoring projects that are related to air-quality concerns within Houston's Fifth Ward, Galena Park, Pleasantville and Sunnyside neighborhoods. The program will also monitor what is referred to as urban air toxics in residential areas located near "super-emitter" Harris County's industrial facilities. The EPA defines super-emitters as emissions of 100 kilograms, or 220.5 pounds, of methane per hour or larger.

According to a news release, the program's year-by-year goals include:
  • In the first year, ACTS will establish a mobile air-monitoring campaign that will address certain air toxics by using low-cost sensors, and analytic and visualization tools over a 20-day cycle.
  • In the second and third years, ACTS will conduct surveys to gauge the effects of the air-monitoring projects and organize community outreach projects to inform local residents.
By the conclusion of the three-year program, ACTS officials expect several outcomes and action, including:
  • Broadening air-monitoring coverage in the community to better understand community exposure
  • Increasing the understanding of complex mixtures of urban air toxics and cumulative exposure impacts to health
  • Educating residents about air pollution exposures and health impacts in their neighborhoods
  • Creating a community-owned data repository of criteria for pollutants and air toxics
Also of note

The newly awarded grant comes one month after research center Environment Texas released a report naming Harris County as the largest gas-powered lawn equipment emissions polluter in the country. The report found such high levels of air toxics can trigger adverse health reactions, including asthma and other respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Houston nonprofit Air Alliance Houston is expected to release a comprehensive report on Dec. 7 that studied air pollution impacts in Harris County. Officials with the organization announced one finding in the report highlights how the highest concentrations of pollutions contributing to excess mortality rates were found in ZIP codes that neighbored "super-emitter" industrial facilities—neighborhoods comprising primarily communities of color.

Quote of note

EPA Regional Administrator Earthea Nance said in a news release enhancing protection for vulnerable communities that are experiencing long-standing pollution problems will empower communities to take action to create a healthier environment.

"This grant funding will improve air quality in the area by empowering communities to learn about pollution standards and take action to create a healthier environment," Nance said.