July 9, 2015
EPA’s Office of Research & Development hosted community leaders from across the United States at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina for a training/workshop on emerging low-cost air monitoring technology. All of these community representatives came to talk about their own experience using low-cost monitors, or using resident organizing to monitor facilities and industries of concern.
The discussion began with detailed information from experts, showcasing best practices for building a community based monitoring project. Including the development of important criteria for building community agency. The discussion led many to talk about the importance to provide research that is of high quality, and has detailed research methodology in good standing with the objectives. Furthermore, residents from Houston, Virginia, and our representative from the the San Joaquin Valley pressed the agency on their plans to use this data generation efforts in ways that can lead to permitting or enforcement practices.
In the past, community-gathered data has not been successful at changing agency practices, and this becomes very frustrating for communities that spend time and resources implementing these research projects. Agency representatives voiced concerns about community-research studies that are not of “regulatory” quality, whether that is because of low-quality monitors or inappropriate methodology. Nonetheless, this forum served as a great place to build community-agency consensus about the power of community monitoring that can lead to influence decisions. This is the first forum of this kind that EPA hosts and will open up future discussions about this topic.
Aside from these conversations, the Office of Research & Development presented their community monitoring toolbox–that provides agency guidance on monitors, practices, and resources that are of different qualities. This toolbox provides future guidance for communities that are looking to begin community-based monitoring strategies.
Pictured above is Luis Olmedo, Director of El Comite Civico del Valle based out of Imperial Valley and CCEJN Director, Cesar Campos, presenting an enforcement project that gained traction in enforcement of a bio-mass facility in Kern County. Luis and Cesar are invested in developing more aspects of community monitoring projects in the San Joaquin and Imperial valleys linked to the KEEN/FERN/IVAN platforms. These projects have served to transfer community-gathered data into agency action that leads to pollution prevention in Environmental Justice communities.