Full Annual Report

Period Covered by the Report:

June 2000 – June 2001

Date of Report:

July 19, 2001

EPA Agreement Number:



Public Access to Environmental Monitoring Data in Tucson, Arizona


Pima County Department of Environmental Quality

Ursula Kramer (Director)

Beth Gorman (Program Manager)

Wayne Byrd (Program Manager)

Pima Association of Governments

Leonore Comrie (Air Quality Manager)

The University of Arizona

Jefferey L. Burgess, M.D., M.P.H.
Maria A. Fierro, M.D.

Mary Kay O’Rourke, Ph.D., Env. Occupational Health

Andrew Comrie, Ph.D., Geography and Regional Dev.

Stefani Hines, M.A., M.S., Center for Toxicology, Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center


Pima County, Arizona

Project Period:

11/01/98 – 9/30/01 (after approved no-cost extensions)

Objectives of the Research Project: Produce public communication programs about air quality, health effects of air pollution, and actions to improve air quality for dissemination to the media, health professionals and the general public via the internet and other methods of public outreach.

Project Progress Update: The Air Info Now EMPACT project has experienced serious setbacks in the launching of our website primarily due to loss of key personnel. During this reporting period alone, the PDEQ EMPACT Project Manager, Kwame Agyare, resigned his position and his primary responsibilities were absorbed by two staff members, Wayne Byrd and Beth Gorman. In addition, the web designer, Sheri Ruiz, resigned her position, which severely delayed the development of the website which is the major method for providing information to the public. Since the major focus of the outreach was to introduce the website to the targeted audience, the outreach portion of the project has also been delayed. Some outreach has been conducted encouraging the use of the functioning “Air Info Now” phone-line and offering information on the soon-to-be-completed website.

At this time, PDEQ is investigating the possibility of an additional no-cost time extension. However, two extensions have been given to the project already.

If a no-cost time extension is not permitted by EPA, the outreach will be continued upon completion of the website and will proceed beyond the end of the EMPACT grant period with state funding from the PDEQ air quality education program.

Progress Summary/Accomplishments:

Objective (1) Establish a standardized format for the collection, archival, and reporting of data between agencies, including development of a mapping protocol.

The air quality monitoring data quality assurance is being maintained by PDEQ through the implementation of standard QA/QC practices as defined in 40 CFR Part 58.

The real-time ozone mapping program for Tucson, Arizona, has taken two years to implement. During this time, research pertaining to the development of an automated, real-time map generation procedure has evolved from initial data exploration and analysis, to a review of a variety of spatial interpolation and modeling methods, to the development of pilot statistical models and the eventual development and implementation of a final statistical algorithm that enables ozone mapping across the metropolitan area. The research and development for this part of the project was performed by Mr. Joe Abraham (research assistant) and Dr. Andrew Comrie (Assoc. Professor, and co-P.I.) in the Department of Geography and Regional Development at The University of Arizona. Implementation of the algorithm on the Air Info Now website was done in collaboration with Mr. Tom Coffin (PDEQ I.T. Program Coordinator).

The ozone mapping program for Tucson, Arizona, differs from others in the U.S. because the scale of the Tucson metropolitan area is much smaller than virtually all other mapping programs to date. In addition, and not surprisingly, these maps were to be created using data from a small set of continuous ozone monitors (currently 8 are online in Tucson). Because of the scale and monitor density issue, the current EPA ozone mapping methodology of spatially interpolating ozone measurements was expected to perform poorly. We proposed and developed a regression-based spatial modeling approach, which models the geographic variation of ozone in the Tucson area from both theoretical expectations and empirical evidence. The resulting algorithm has resulted in a satisfactory, and in many ways superior, approach to providing air pollution maps for individual metropolitan areas.

The modeling approach considered environmental factors such as prevailing winds, ozone chemistry, the spatial distribution of ozone precursors and local topography, in order to simulate expected spatial and temporal ozone variability. The range of factors and specific variables describing them were supported by theoretical and empirical information from research literature in peer-reviewed journals and by empirical evidence found in both historical ozone and meteorological data from Tucson. Briefly, a multiple linear regression analysis was applied to the ozone data, and a regression model was developed that established relationships between the geographic variables described above and the observed variability in ozone concentrations across time at all the monitor locations.

The resulting model provides reliable estimates of ozone concentrations across the entire Tucson map domain. Importantly, this modeling approach allowed for an error assessment using independent data, something that is difficult to do when using only geostatistical approaches such as kriging (as used in the current EPA approach). The final mapping ‘algorithm’ is based largely on regression modeling, but there is some limited use of kriging. Once the model has calculated a final estimate of the spatial variation in the ozone data, kriging is used to interpolate any remaining difference between estimates and actual measurements. These correction values are added back in to the model estimates. Importantly, this step results in the algorithm honoring the ozone concentrations measured at ozone monitors, as well as providing a smoothed and constantly varying surface that improves the visual look of the maps.

The mapping algorithm part of the project resulted in one master’s thesis by Joe Abraham. Two manuscripts detailing the development of the mapping algorithm are currently being prepared for submission to peer-reviewed journals for publication.

Objective (2) Use innovative technologies to communicate regional real-time (e.g. hourly) air quality monitoring data to a linked public communication system (including Internet web sites, phone-in information line, radio, TV stations, and newspapers).

Deadline setbacks occurred with the loss of key EMPACT staff members Shannon Davis, Kwame Agyare and Sheri Ruiz. However, a contract was approved to have Sheri work for PDEQ on a part-time basis as a consultant to complete the final details of the web site. It is anticipated that the web site will be completed by August. The website information will be available in English and Spanish.

While air quality data from the established monitoring sites in Pima County were available for use by all participants in the project, two new sites were added to specifically target areas of concern. The new sites measure ozone and fine particulate matter as well a meteorological data. These sites were located in two regions of the Tucson metro area, Northwest and South, known to have high levels of juvenile asthma, in order to provide detail information on the air quality in those areas. Data from all the PDEQ monitoring sites have been made available to the public via the web page and call in phone line. Under this grant, PDEQ has been able to establish real time hourly updates of monitored data, through out the entire PDEQ network, by using enhanced polling and reporting technology.

The automated dial-up phone system (520) 882-4AIR is functioning well. This phone number can be used to obtain the latest AQI reports for the Tucson and Green Valley areas and general information about the PDEQ air programs. A contract for development of the system that reports air quality data directly from the requested monitoring site was issued to a company named DRDAS in Houston, Texas. The phone line is currently available in English and the programming and recording for the Spanish language option is near completion.

Objective (3) – Provide coordinated outreach and training programs for teachers, media professionals and other stakeholders, with special emphasis on the areas with high asthma admissions.

Several logo ideas were developed by staff at PDEQ and one was chosen by the EMPACT committee. The logo will be used to promote the activities of the EMPACT grant including the website and telephone line. The development of a media training is near completion by Natalie Barnes and Lee Comrie at Pima Association of Governments. Once the website is complete, a schedule of trainings will set up with members of the local TV, radio, and newspaper staff to inform them of the information available and encourage their use of the AirInfoNow web site.

The development of the teacher training is being completed by Stefani Hines at the University of Arizona Center for Toxicology. Trainings will be scheduled at the beginning of the school year in schools located in the targeted zip codes with high pediatric asthma rates.

The School Nurse Association has been contacted and a training is scheduled on September 10th for all School Nurse Supervisors from each School District in the Tucson area.

Promotional and educational materials have been developed including an AQI bookmark; separate newsletters for the media, educators, and health professionals; a refrigerator magnet, pen, frizbee, and erasable message board with the phone line and web site address; and other materials for distribution to the public.

Objective (4) – Assemble, customize distribute curricula addressing the potential health risk of ambient airborne exposures in English and Spanish.

Web-based air quality curricular activities have been developed and piloted in local schools. Initial outreaches have taken place at summer school programs in the targeted areas with high pediatric asthma rates. When the website is complete, additional outreaches will be scheduled.

All web pages are being translated into Spanish by staff at the University of Arizona’s Environmental Occupational Health Department.  PDEQ will be presenting the EMPACT AirInfoNow program at a state-wide Environmental Education conference in September.

Objective (5) – Conduct air quality studies in economically disadvantaged areas with high minority representation that are known to have increased rates of pediatric asthma and that have been traditionally underserved.

Staff at the University of Arizona Environmental Occupational Health Department performed studies using state health data regarding areas with high rates of pediatric asthma. Two monitoring sites have been established for these underserved areas. They are the Rose Elementary School site, located on south 12th Avenue in Tucson, and the Coachline site in the Continental Ranch area on the west side of the metropolitan Tucson area. The monitoring site at Rose Elementary was completed in November of 2000 and currently measures PM2.5 (Particulate Matter 2.5) and Ozone. The Coachline monitoring site was completed in May of 2001 and will also monitor for PM2.5, and Ozone.

We have written and reviewed documents examining the relationship between three common air pollutants and health effects. These documents are currently being translated into Spanish and will be saved as PDF files for use on the web site. We have also translated existing web text into Spanish for the EMPACT Web site. Work is progressing on the paper examining pediatric hospital admissions with air quality events in metropolitan Tucson.

Several items have been accomplished using the Arizona Department of Health Services Asthma Admissions data for Tucson. First, demographic tables were generated comparing those people with asthma hospitalization with the 1990 U.S. census. Demographics we looked at included age group (0-15,16-44, and 45+), gender, and ethnicity. Tables were generated for all of Tucson and also stratified by zip code to gain a spatial understanding of the population. These tables will be presented in the Final Technical Report.

Additional preliminary analysis included mapping the location of Pima Department of Environmental Quality monitoring stations and aggregated monthly levels of carbon monoxide and ozone from 1995 to 1998. Higher levels of carbon monoxide are observed across the Tucson metropolitan area in January compared to June. This is observed particularly in areas where Interstate-10 cuts through, suggesting this may partially be due to traffic yield. Weather patterns may also be of influence. In June, monsoonal rains may dispel much of the carbon monoxide, thus resulting in lower levels compared to January. Similar graphics are being generated using ozone and particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5).

Monthly asthma rates were also generated, using the 1990 U.S. Census as a denominator. Like the carbon monoxide levels, there is an apparent increase in asthma hospitalizations in January compared to June. Further analysis will involve mapping the asthma rates among specific age groups, particularly children.

There are several directions in which we are going in further analysis. First, we would like to generate more maps stratified by age. A publication is in progress involving asthma hospitalization and pollutant levels among children. This paper will look at the relationship between hospitalization for asthma and pollutant levels across the Tucson metropolitan area. We will generate models for that relationship using a time-series regression.

Additionally, after modeling asthma hospitalization data with pollutant levels, we plan on remodeling the data using the kriged values modeled for EMPACT pollutants by Dr. Comrie. This model will account for the spatial variability in pollutant levels measured by each monitor, allowing us to come up with a composite level across each zip code and the Tucson metropolitan area. Using this model, we plan on developing a more accurate description of the relationship between asthma, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and ozone levels that will be used for public access on the internet. We expect to complete this work during the next month and provide files in English and Spanish for the web site in late August.

Objective (6) – Enhance collection of air quality measurements by integrating regulatory compliance monitoring with complementary technologies such as visibility indexing.

To provide visibility awareness to the web users, a digital camera and associated software were purchased and permission garnered to install the camera on the roof of the Pima County Administration Building at 130 W. Congress St. in downtown Tucson (11 stories above ground level). All utilities necessary for the camera to function have been installed by Pima County Facilities Management. PDEQ staff fabricated a stand for mounting the camera on the roof and the camera was installed and is sending pictures to the website on a near real-time basis.

Budget Update: As of March 30, 2001, EPA has been billed $368,227 of the $485,000 in EPA funds available for this grant. When the June, 2001 (end of Pima County fiscal year) financial figures are made available to staff, EPA will be billed for work completed from April 1, 2001. It is anticipated that all of the funding will be spent in completion of the grant deliverables.


PDEQ presentation at EMPACT workshop in Baltimore

PDEQ Poster Session at EMPACT workshop in St. Paul

“Improving spatial estimates for subregional air pollution mapping using geographic principles.” U of A partners presented at the 97th Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, New York, NY, February 27-March 3.

“Spatio-Temporal Mapping of Air Pollution in the Tucson Metro Area.”

U of A partners presented at 96th Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Pittsburgh, PA, April 4-8.

“Spatio-Temporal Mapping of Air Pollution in the Tucson Metro Area.” U of A partners presented at 93rd Annual Conference of the Air and Waste Management Association, Salt Lake City, UT, June 18-22.

Future Activities:

Objective (1): Finalize ozone mapping and air quality data reporting
Objective (2): Complete the Spanish options for the phone line and website
Objective (3): Continue the public outreach, especially in the targeted zip code regions
Objective (4): Finalize curricular activities and disseminate through the school outreach
Objective (5): Complete the air quality studies in the targeted areas
Objective (6): Finalize the visibility indexing project on the website

Relevant Web Sites: 
Project web sites will be: and 
Project dial-up voice phone line will be: 1-520-882-4AIR. 
Both shall be operational in 2001.