EPA's internet-assisted school air monitoring system poses threat to industry

Jan 01, 2010 | 07:48 AM | Paul Schaffer

A low-profile U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program has created an intriguing precedent that may have a ripple effect in regulatory politics.

The EPA has been quietly posting on the Internet the results of "air toxics ambient monitoring" at 46 locations—all schools—around the country. What's being measured varies from site to site, based partly on "the best available information about the pollution sources in the area," meaning local industry. In Marietta, Ohio, items of interest are manganese and lead; in Reading, Pa., there's a single measurement: nanograms of airborne chromium per cubic meter.

Such figures, of course, can be politically sensitive. A recent wrangle in Frisco, Texas, partly driven by local emissions data, prompted Exide Technologies Inc. to cancel expansion of its secondary lead smelter there (AMM, Oct. 29). In that situation, local statistics were obtained by city officials from the Texas environmental agency and publicized.

Texas, interestingly, is participating in the EPA's school air program in a very guarded way. Five of the agency's 58 active measurement sites are in Texas but none of the Texas data shows up on the EPA Web site. Seven schools outside Texas also are blanked out.....

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