My Air Quality: Using Sensors to Know What’s in Your Air

November 21, 2014
Diamond Bar, California —
In an interactive collaboration between technology developers, researchers, and the monitoring community, many gathered to showcase new developments in sensors and air monitoring. Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN), Project Coordinator Gustavo Aguirre Jr., attended CAPCOA 2014 this year in Southern California. At the workshop there was participation from senor technology developers, vendors, regulators, enforcement officers, and everyone in between. This was a great educational opportunity for research, development, and discussions for the intersectionality of air monitoring technology and community members. CCEJN sought to discuss how government and researchers can help communities implement “low-cost” senor technology to monitor air in their area.

Community based groups and organizations have seen in the past decade how sensor technology has advanced at a pace that has made this technology far more available to residents. It is now feasible for concerned citizens who are looking to do air monitoring in their communities to do so using low-cost technologies. CCEJN in collaboration with the Arvin Bucket Brigade and our partners Global Community Monitor (GCM) have used “low-cost” air monitoring in the Central Valley to gather data on a community based effort. We are very excited that in the next decade “low-cost” sensor technology will be more accurate and available for the use of environmental justice groups. Our efforts today to expand community based monitoring and data gathering will be effective in gaining support from local and regional governments that will be more receptive to community gathered data. At the conference, CCEJN explored discussion about current pollution trends that affect our air and how to monitor them, general performance of “low-cost” sensors, and forming strategis to allow this technology to reach the hands of community members who will measure air quality in real-time.

It was inspiring to participate alongside other environmental justice allies who are also leaders in air quality monitoring. For example, Luis Olmedo of El Comite Civico del Valle joined the Community Projects and Sensor Monitoring panel discussion. Luis discussed a project in Imperial Valley that will place 40 air monitors across the region to monitor air quality and integrate it within the IVAN reporting network. IVAN is the community based reporting network that CCEJN has used to model FERN and KEEN. FERN/KEEN/IVAN are central to the discussions of community monitoring as they are networks that thrive on the monitoring and documenting of community concerns. It is no coincidence that representatives from the 5 IVAN model projects were present, active, and participants in the conference. Our constant strive to improve community monitoring is essential to maintain the success of the networks and essential to empowering environmental justice communities.

Our goal for attending this conference was to create a space where government and community can explore together the role of community in monitoring local air quality. We also voiced to regulators the fact that community based monitoring is important, and serve to inform government about local conditions. In our daily work, CCEJN stands to augment the validity of data gathering practices employed by community groups and it’s effectiveness to prevent pollution and reach compliance with regulatory law. We believe that the principle of community monitoring should be respected and taken into consideration when data is given from a community member to a government agency.