On a sunny day that a Northglenn air quality monitor rated “good,” federal, state, county and local officials stood outside the Northglenn Recreation Center to announce they’re expanding local air quality monitoring programs.
Adams and Jefferson counties received $628,000 in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants to add more monitors and make that data public.
Local leaders said it’s critical in an area that’s experiencing dramatic growth, more frequent wildfires and has a geography that creates pollutant-trapping temperature inversions during an Oct. 18 press conference. All of those factors have had consequences.
In April 2022, the EPA downgraded the northern Front Range from a “serious” to a “severe” violator of federal ozone standards. Heavy industrial users like Commerce City’s Suncor Oil Refinery have repeatedly been cited for EPA violations, and earlier this month, the EPA reached a settlement with Suncor around some of those allegations.
EPA regional administrator KC Becker said the funds are aimed at helping areas most affected by pollutants.
“These grants reflect a renewed focus on environmental justice and helping communities that are often overburdened and underserved,” she said. “In practical terms, these grant projects are significantly enhancing the resolution we have on air quality in places like Commerce City, Golden, Lakewood, Sheridan and other locations across the metro area.”
The monitors provide real-time pollutant measurements on public-facing web dashboards, including the Love My Air website. The Love My Air network is also available as a smartphone app.
Data from the Love My Air network gives residents real-time access to information that can help them decide if it’s safe to exercise outside. For local governments, the data will help guide environmental policy and decisions.
Adams County got a $403,000 EPA grant to expand its community air monitoring network across Adams and Arapahoe counties. The sensors measure fine particulate matter (PM2.5), particles 2.5 micrometers or smaller — 30 times smaller than a strand of hair. Exposure to unhealthy levels of PM2.5 is linked to premature mortality, heart disease and asthma.
Jefferson County got $225,000 to install similar monitoring equipment in several of its underserved communities.
The county grants were among nearly $3 million the EPA gave to communities and nonprofits statewide for developing real-time air pollutant information in underserved neighborhoods.
Northglenn already has two air quality monitoring stations that measure PM2.5, one at the recreation center and a second at Northwest Open Space. Data from those sensors is live on Love My Air.
“This allows residents real-time information about air quality particulate matter, right where they live,” said Mayor Meredith Leighty. “We recognize that air quality impacts everyone’s quality of life. This includes our ability to enjoy time outside, and both our short- and long-term health.”
The grant money is part of the EPA’s Inflation Reduction Act funds, intended to help local health officials develop data on air pollutants in their neighborhoods.