Pollution

EPA grant will help employ 100 youth for air pollution study

One hundred young people will be the driving force behind a “first-of-its-kind” air pollution study in Cincinnati due to a $75,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Groundwork Ohio River Valley plans to deploy 10 sensor stations as well as dozens of smaller portable sensors to get an unprecedented view of air quality in the areas of Lower Price Hill and South Fairmount.

Right now, air quality is monitored by just a few static stations around Cincinnati as well as spot checks by the Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency.

Tanner Yess is the co-executive director of the non-profit. He said the grant will get 100 youth trained in how these processes work, and the data from the sensors will be publicly available in real-time.

Yess said a third of the grant will go straight towards paying the youth and a handful of community members.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is partnering on the project to further its research into the health effects of air pollution.

United States Environmental Protection Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe speaks to attendees at Oyler High School in the Lower Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe visited the Oyler Community Learning Center to announce the grant Tuesday.

She said disadvantaged neighborhoods, usually populated with Black and LatinX residents, have been on “the frontlines of pollution for generations.”

McCabe applauded the community-driven project and said it is need in the fight for environmental justice and equity.

“We’re going to create some community scientists right here,” she said.

Cincinnati mayor Aftab Pureval speaks at Oyler High School in the Lower Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. United States Environmental Protection Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe visited the school and took a tour of environmental projects in the area.

Yess said Lower Price Hill, the home to Oyler, has some of the lowest tree canopy and highest energy costs in the city. He said the pilot project and Groundwork’s partnership with the school will help make the neighborhood a model for sustainability.

He said we need to provide generational solutions to generational problems.

Mayor Aftab Pureval said climate change is affecting us all, down to how many potholes are on the streets. He said this project will “inspire and train a new generation of leaders and stewards.”

Mohagany Wooten is a junior at Oyler. She’s already been working on the project. She said she was shocked to learn Lower Price Hill was so impacted by air pollution but added that her education about the issue also taught her how much worse it used to be .

Mohagany Wooten, a junior at Oyler, speaks about projects she and her classmates are working on at Oyler High School in the Lower Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

The scale of the project would not have been possible 10 years ago, Yess said, but the technology is now cheaper and widely available. Wireless internet connectivity also simplifies the process of connecting a network of sensors.

Yess said some of the sensors are small enough to be worn. Youth will be assigned walking routes to get even more data and the sensor can be worn to get data on indoor air quality as well.

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