For years, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would write air-quality measurements down on paper, then transcribe them digitally, leading to an informational delay of at least an hour or more during which impacted residents could have been making decisions about their health.
After scrutiny about what the Houston Chronicle's Perla Trevizo calls its "limited capability" to monitor air quality, especially during times of crisis such as Hurricane Harvey and the ITC chemical fire, the TCEQ said it plans to spend $1.5 million on new equipment and technology focused on the Houston region.
About $950,000 of that will be spent, Trevizo reports, "to upgrade two vans to sample in real-time for a broad list of pollutants and to buy a third vehicle with technology that will focus on a narrower pollutant list, but that will also include the carcinogen benzene."
TCEQ also plans to add three fixed air-monitoring stations in Pasadena, Baytown, and Channelview.
Data collected from the vans' mobile and fixed monitors, TCEQ says, should begin to be available to the public online this spring.
Praising this investment in better monitoring, Dr. Elena Craft, senior director of climate and health with the Environmental Defense Fund, tells Trevizo, "The TCEQ also must commit to take action when it detects violations of clean air safeguards. Until [they do] more to hold industrial polluters accountable, the health and safety of Texans, especially in Houston, will continue to be at risk.”
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