Chevron Speaks to Axel Abellard, of Argos Scientific

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Tell us about the air monitoring program.

The Richmond Community Air Monitoring Program began in 2013. The system tracks 23 different compounds in the air. The community air monitoring stations in North Richmond, Point Richmond and the Atchison Village neighborhoods are designed to monitor a broad number of air pollutants so as to better understand Richmond air quality.

Tell us more about the potential sources for air pollution in our community.

The air monitoring system is very sensitive – the vapors from someone painting their house to the emissions from cars and trucks will be registered. The fenceline stations are designed to look for gases normally associated with refinery emissions, such as benzene and sulfur dioxide. The community stations, however, look at an expanded list of gasses, like ammonia. The community stations also monitor for particulate matter, which was very useful in tracking the air quality after the recent North Bay wild fires.

What are the main sources of emissions that are being tracked by the system?

Honestly, it all depends on which way the wind is blowing. Richmond is an urban area – so there are many sources of air pollution: gases and particulates from vehicles, the railroad, commercial maintenance, smoke from wood burning, as well as industrial sources are all detected by our system.

Other than tracking emissions, are there other air quality issues that the system can monitor for?

Absolutely. The stations detect and quantify gases every five minutes. Each location has a weather station that measures wind speed and direction. When combining the emissions data with weather data and known events, we can identify not only the level of air pollution, but also potentially support efforts to identify where it may have originated. Two great examples of this are the particulate matter samples measured during the October wild fires, and the fire that broke out in December 2016 at a local auto yard. Our systems are also equipped with an event sampling system that can be activated during an emergency.

Is this program unique in the Bay Area?

Yes – no other community has real-time combined fenceline and community or emergency event sampling systems. In fact, there is probably no other community in the world that has this level of air quality data available to them. We’re very proud of the work we are doing.

How is air quality in Richmond?

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is responsible for tracking air quality throughout the entire region. When you look at the data from their detection system, Richmond is on par with cities such as Oakland and San Francisco. We are consistently averaging better than many of our neighbors, and meet the state and national standards for particulate matter and ozone.

Why is it important to track air quality?

Air quality plays a significant role in people’s health and is especially important for at-risk populations such as children and the elderly. The Richmond Community Air Monitoring Program plays a vital role in helping the community of Richmond understand what is in our air.

Argos Scientific manages the ongoing operation, maintenance and data reporting for the Richmond Community Air Monitoring Program.

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