Participants in the Tucson EMPACT Metro Grant
The participants in this project, Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ), Pima Association of Governments (PAG), the University of Arizona (U of A), and associated stakeholders have worked cooperatively for many years to protect and improve the air quality in the Tucson area. For example, project personnel serve together on the Air Quality Subcommittee of the Environmental Planning Advisory Committee, which meets monthly and focuses on air quality issues facing the region. Participants have built on the history of these cooperative efforts to make the EMPACT project a success.
Ambient air monitoring in Pima County has been conducted by PDEQ and its predecessors since the 1960s. Currently, the monitoring network is operated by the Monitoring and Communications Division of PDEQ. The State of Arizona has delegated authority to PDEQ to operate a portion of Arizona’s State or Local Air Monitoring Stations (SLAMS) and a portion of the National Air Monitoring Stations (NAMS). In addition to SLAMS and NAMS stations, Special Purpose Monitoring Stations (SPMS) are operated to accomplish various objectives. PDEQ also operates and maintains a visibility and urban haze network for the state. All routine air quality monitoring data generated by PDEQ are submitted into the EPA’s AIRS data base system. Access to historical PDEQ air quality data can be accomplished through AIRS.
PDEQ’s Clean Air Program was established in 1989 to provide public air quality information and education to help reduce air pollution in Pima County. To prevent further deterioration of air quality, several initiatives were developed to reduce air quality emissions in the Tucson area. The program provides speakers and information to the public regarding current air quality and associated health effects; sponsors community awareness events encouraging citizens to reduce vehicle miles traveled and to use alternative modes of transportation; develops and distributes free air quality curricula to schools; provides teacher workshops to facilitate student air quality education: conducts air quality demonstrations for students of all ages; and works with transportation planners to coordinate efforts toward reduced traffic congestion and improved air quality.
PAG is a regional agency that performs a variety of planning and coordination functions. It is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Pima County. PAG’s mission is to provide accurate information to local Government and agency officials, so they can make informed decisions for the region. PAG provides regional planning programs for issues that cross Jurisdictional boundaries, including transportation, air quality, water quality, population, community information, and social services. Its authority is derived from federal and state laws, and from Intergovernmental Agreements. PAG’s Board of Directors, known as the Regional Council, includes one elected official from each of six local governments – the cities of South Tucson, Oro Valley, Tucson, Marana and Sahuarita, and Pima County, as well as a representative from the state’s Board of Transportation. PAG is responsible for providing the Carbon Monoxide State Implementation Plan, Particulate Matter Plans, Annual Conformity Determination, and the Environmental Planning Guide. Specific PAG programs related to air quality include the RideShare Program and the Travel Reduction Program. PAG staff work closely with the PDEQ Clean Air Program staff to provide public information, education and outreach programs.
The University of Arizona is one of the top ten publicly funded research universities in the United States. The Department of Geography and Regional Development at The University of Arizona developed the real-time air quality mapping algorithms for this EMPACT project. The department is actively involved in research on mapping air quality and other environmental data across the Southwest. A major achievement in this project was the development of model algorithms for real-time ozone mapping that provide realistic and accurate patterns across the greater Tucson area based on a relatively sparse monitoring network. The techniques developed in this project are useful for similar air quality mapping in other small to medium cities. More information is available on how the maps are made and on a comparison of mapping techniques.
The University of Arizona Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center developed new K-12 web-based activities for the Air Info Now site, beta tested them in the classroom, and modified them based on feedback from the testing. SWEHSC also trained teachers to use the online materials. The EMPACT project aligns well with the goals of the center to conduct environmental health science research and outreach. Specifically, the near real-time data available from this program is useful for the asthma/respiratory research being conducted at SWEHSC facilities. In addition, the project helps the center’s target audiences fully utilize the new air quality information. As a result of EMPACT, the SWEHSC is now able to train health practitioners to use this information to better care for their patients. In addition, they are able to educate K-12 teachers and students about air pollution in a more interactive, effective fashion.
The University of Arizona, College of Public Health, Environmental & Occupational Health Program wrote and reviewed documents examining the relationship between three common air pollutants and health effects, generated demographic tables comparing those people with asthma hospitalization with the 1990 U.S. census, and also generated monthly asthma rates. Additional analysis included mapping the location of Pima Department of Environmental Quality air quality monitoring stations and generating tables with the aggregated monthly levels of carbon monoxide and ozone from 1995 to 1998, which assisted in the study of the seasonal variation of air pollutants. Further analysis involved mapping the asthma rates among specific age groups, particularly children. Using these and additional research models and data, the College of Public Health EOH Program developed a more accurate description of the relationship between asthma, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and ozone levels. The University of Arizona EOH Program also produced the Spanish translation of the website.
Cooperative efforts between the University’s Arizona Prevention Center and the Arizona Lung Association have succeeded in developing special outreach programs for children with asthma in Tucson. Preliminary studies on the prevalence of pediatric hospital discharges for asthma have been conducted, and this information will be used to target underserved communities within the Tucson metropolitan area that truly need to have access to real-time air quality data.
The functions and facilities of all of these programs have been integrated into the EMPACT effort. EMPACT funding has been used to build on existing infrastructure at all the above agencies, to extend the outreach and marketing of air quality data to the Tucson public.