This week we completed our third and final workshop in our Pasadena Community Mapping and Training Wokrshop series. In sessions one and two of our series, we took Pasadena community residents through mapping exercises to identify community treasures, challenges, and opportunities. In last week’s workshop, we taught residents how to log pollution concerns, file complaints with Harris County, and use air monitoring equipment available to them through Air Alliance Houston.
Community residents are our eyes, ears, and noses on the ground in communities like Pasadena. There is no substitute for the local knowledge and experience that community residents can offer to an advocacy organization like ours. By helping our partners in Pasadena understand the resources available to them, we can bring together their local knowledge and our advocacy experience.
Our first activity was training Pasadena citizens to use our “See/Smell/Feel” log sheets to document the impact of pollution events and report those events to the proper authorities. Because Pasadena is its own municipality without an environmental health department, citizens rely on Harris County to address their pollution concerns. Last week we were joined by Dr. Latrice Babin, the Environmental Toxicologist Manager for Harris County Pollution Control Services, who taught residents how to file an effective complaint with the county. Some key elements are: document the time and place of an event as closely as possible. Take photos and record your own subjective experience of the event (Did it cause physical symptoms? Did it prevent you from enjoying our own property by, for example, preventing you from going outside when you would like) and share it with Harris County. Most importantly, if an event is ongoing, contact Harris County as soon as possible and encouraging them to conduct a site visit to document–and potentially remedy–an ongoing event.
In addition to filing complaints, citizens have other tools available through Air Alliance Houston to document pollution. On Friday we trained residents in the use of three air monitors AAH commonly uses.
Summa canisters. A summa canister is a piece of air sampling equipment that can be used to take a “grab sample” of air for laboratory analysis. The canister is a stainless steel ball that can collect five liters of air with the simple turn of a valve. Citizens equipped with a summa canister can take a single sample of ambient air when they believe that a pollution event is occurring. Air Alliance Houston collects the full canister and brings it to the Harris County laboratory for analysis. Once we get the laboratory results, we share them with the community member and any other interested parties.
DustTrak. The DustTrak is a particulate matter (PM) sampler that uses light scattering technology to measure levels of PM pollution in real time. We often take the DustTrak with us on site visits to get instantaneous air quality data. You may remember that our Community Outreach Director Brian Butler used the DustTrak to gather data about the impacts of truck idling in and around Hermann Park (scroll to 0:24 on this report from KHOU Channel 11).
MiniVol. The MiniVol Tactical Air Sampler (TAS) is the work horse of our particulate matter monitoring projects.During our Galena Park project we collected some 60 PM samples, looking for total concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), various metals, and diesel exhaust emissions. During the next year of our Pasadena project, we will gather at least that many samples in sights throughout North Pasadena (between the Houston Ship Channel and State Highway 225).
Although our community training series has come to an end, our relationships with our community partners are just beginning. With the help of Pasadena citizens who care about air quality and its impact on their health, we can log pollution concerns, turn them into complaints, and gather our own data about air quality. Together we will work to improve the air for everyone in Pasadena. Because everyone breathes.
Thank you again to Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services, Harris County Pollution Control Services, Neighborhood Centers Inc., and the citizens of Pasadena for coming together to make this workshop series a success.