MPCA to monitor urban air quality

The Minneapolis Pollution Control Agency will begin a project in January to gain a better understanding of urban air quality.

The agency will place air quality sensors in every ZIP code in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The goal is to get a better picture of how air pollution varies across urban areas, the agency said in a news release.

“This project will help us answer the question we often get asked, ‘What’s in my neighborhood?’” MPCA Assistant Commissioner David Thornton said in the release. “Our statewide monitoring network gives us a very good idea of how the air is generally, but people want to know more about what’s going on where they live, work and play.”

Minnesota’s air quality is generally good, according to the MPCA, but understanding small-scale differences in air pollution could help minimize exposure, particularly for vulnerable communities.

A 2015 report by the MPCA and Minnesota Department of Health said there was little difference in air pollution levels between ZIP codes in the Twin Cities. However, it noted that ZIP codes with larger populations of people of color, American Indians and residents living in poverty are more vulnerable to air pollution.

As part of the project, the MPCA will operate a network of up to 50 air quality-monitoring sensors. It will look to see if there are significant differences in pollutant concentrations between ZIP codes and if the technology is suitable for measuring small differences in air quality.

The agency plans on asking for public input on locations for the sensors. It says that the idea location would be on easily accessible street poles 10 to 15 feet above ground and with minimal tree cover or obstruction.

The MPCA will host a series of open houses to talk about the project and seek input on sensor locations, including one from 6:30 p.m.­­–7:30 p.m. on Sept. 11 at Farview Recreation Center, 621 29th Ave. N. Visit pca.state.mn.us/air/assessing-urban-air-quality-project to learn more.

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