Air around eastern Ky. schools to be monitored

Published 9:37 am Monday, August 3, 2009

ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) — The air around three eastern Kentucky schools will be monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of a national program in 22 states.

Monitoring equipment has been set up at three elementary schools in Ashland, where the EPA will monitor the air for toxic chemicals for 60 days.

The Ashland Daily Independent reports that the Kentucky Division of Air Quality won’t give a schedule of exactly when the monitoring will begin so polluters can’t change schedules and skew the results.

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The EPA is monitoring the air at 62 schools in 22 states, including Kentucky. The agency is working with state and local officials to begin the monitoring at the selected schools within three months.

While the EPA and state and local governments already operate air pollution monitoring networks that collect information on a variety of air pollutants, this will be the first time school-yard air quality will be the focus of thei r investigations.

The contaminants to be tested vary depending on the school. But the focus is toxic chemicals that are known to cause cancer, respiratory and neurological problems – especially in children, who are more susceptible than adults because they are still growing.

The monitors will measure two types of pollutants, gases like benzene and particles, such as manganese and lead. The tests focus on toxins related to cancer, respiratory disease and neurological effects, and seeks to learn whether air pollution poses health risks to children.

The schools were chosen because of their proximity to industrial facilities or other sources of pollution.

Kentucky Division of Air Quality assistant Director Sean Alteri said state air quality technicians will service the equipment, change filters and send the filters and other data to EPA labs for analysis.

School officials don’t have to do anything with the equipment, said Joe Fraley, the school dist rict’s maintenance director. The district did install electric service to the collection stations, he said.

Once preliminary information is available, the EPA plans to post it to a section of its Web site devoted to the study, said Donette Sturdivant, an environmental engineer for EPA Region 4 in Atlanta.

After that, the EPA and related state agencies will review the data to assess risks to the community; about two months after that the EPA will post more information on the Web site, Sturdivant said.