Plan to suspend North Country monitoring challenged
By Gwendolyn Craig
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and area scientists have joined Adirondack environmental groups’ calls to reopen three regional air-quality monitoring stations that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suspended in May due to finances.
“The North Country and Adirondack Mountains are home to some of upstate New York’s most beautiful natural landscapes, lakes and wildlife, but cutting these vital air quality monitoring stations could shift the winds on years of progress to protect these environments,” Schumer said in a news release. “Now is the time to uplift stations like these that have been on the frontlines of stopping acid rain from poisoning our ecosystems, and I am fully committed to increasing resources to breathe new life into this program so all New York’s air quality monitoring stations can continue their vital work keeping our air clean.”
The EPA suspended operations at 41 monitoring sites, including acid rain stations at the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Akwesasne reservation and Oswego County’s Bennett Bridge. In the Adirondacks, a Newcomb station stopped collecting atmospheric deposition and ammonia monitoring. An EPA spokesperson told the Adirondack Explorer last month that the suspensions were “necessary to realize critical cost savings needed to continue collecting data at remaining sites through the end of the fiscal year.”
“EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs (OAP) will undertake a scientific review of long-term rural air quality and atmospheric deposition monitoring assets to inform next steps,” the spokesperson said.
Air-quality experts from the Northeast said the EPA’s data collection halt “will significantly compromise long-term research on effects of air pollution at Hubbard Brook,” a forest in New Hampshire where scientists are studying the effects of air pollutants on soil, tree growth and ecosystem diversity. The EPA suspended air-quality monitoring there as well.
The memo, which the Adirondack Council shared with the Adirondack Explorer, was written by Syracuse University Professor Charles Driscoll; Anthea Lavallee, executive director of the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation; and researcher Emma Rosi and project manager Thomas Butler of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
The monitoring stations are distributed across the U.S. and help show patterns between air-quality conditions and human health, they said. Ozone and fine particulate matter contribute to asthma, respiratory conditions and other ailments.
“These networks allow us to determine which areas of the U.S. fail to meet air quality standards and where ecosystems may be impacted by adverse air quality,” the scientists wrote. “We also know that, increasingly, climate change is driving a deterioration in air quality, with vulnerable communities at highest risk. These networks allow us to understand how and where our air quality is changing under a changing climate.”