Air monitoring begins in Kent
The first of a series of state-of-the-art air monitoring stations is now in place at Kent School in Kent. This air monitoring network is being developed by Western Connecticut Clean Air Action (WCCAA), an alliance of citizens, area conservation commissions, land trusts, environmental groups and town officials that formed in July 2018.
The network’s primary purpose is to detect any significant changes in Litchfield County’s ambient air quality after the Cricket Valley Energy Center, now under construction on Route 22 in Dover Plains, begins operating in 2020.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) currently monitors air quality. But the nearest DEEP air monitoring stations are 18 and 26 miles away in Cornwall and Thomaston, respectively. With no DEEP plans to install additional monitors, a local effort formed.
Working closely with WCCAA, Kent School purchased and recently installed the DEEP-recommended Aeroqual AQM65 air monitoring station as the central component of the evolving monitoring network. It is expected to go online in late January.
WCCAA is currently raising funds to offset a portion of Kent School’s purchase cost. Nearby towns plan to buy their own smaller monitors to capture data from various elevations and microclimates. Data from the Kent School monitoring station and the peripheral devices will be compiled and made publicly available.
While Cricket Valley is expected to meet state and federal air emissions standards and create cleaner ambient air overall for distant regions, area towns have concerns about: carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide. There are concerns that larger particulates and other pollutants could accumulate in water and soil; and about damage to lung tissue that could be caused by VOCs and NOx.
The AQM65 at the Kent School will measure ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and particulate matter (PM2.5 and less) concentrations and gather meteorological data. Area schools will be taking an active interest in the data for their science programs.
Financial support for the monitors has also come from area schools, land trusts, environmental protection groups and the town of Kent.
An informational forum is planned in the spring. For more information, contact email@example.com and go to www.facebook.com/groups/WCCAA/.
B. Blake Levitt, a science journalist/author who writes about how technology affects biology, is the Communications Director for The Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council — a supporting WCCAA member.