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Wayne County to bulk up air quality monitoring network


Wayne County is planning to build a much larger infrastructure to monitor air quality, county Executive Warren Evans announced this week.

During his annual State of the County address, Evans laid out the county’s plan to put 100 stationary air monitors throughout the county. Five hundred children with asthma will also get mobile air monitors to clip on their backpacks, and sensors on their inhalers that record when and where they use them.

“Together with air quality data, they’ll allow us to learn the air fingerprint of asthma in our communities. We can use that data to take immediate action,” said Evans, noting that the county will be able to notify parents when air quality is poor.

Evans said getting a more detailed picture of air pollution in the county will also have long-term benefits. “As for the polluters, let’s just say the next time they apply for their permits, we’ll be waiting with the data we need to hold them accountable,” he said.

Air pollution in Wayne County has improved in recent years, but it remains a serious problem in Detroit and some downriver communities. Detroit also has a significantly higherasthma burden than the rest of the state, and that gap has only grown in recent years.

Kathryn Savoie of the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center said Evans’ announcement is a welcome one. The Ecology Center has teamed up with other groups and community activists to install and operate a network of air quality monitors in Wayne County, but she said any additional monitoring is a good thing.

“We think it's really important that we have access to more information about what's going on with our air at a finer level of detail than what we get with [state] regulatory monitors,” Savoie said.

But Savoie said where the monitors get placed — and who decides that — will be important. “I hope that the county will be looking at spacing this, and getting community input so that we're addressing the needs and concerns of the people who are affected by poor quality air,” she said.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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