Department of Ecology News Release - August 17, 2015

New air quality monitors in Sunnyside
Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency and Washington Department of Ecology to upgrade air monitors

Yakima — Two air quality monitors that measure particle pollution are being installed in the Sunnyside region of the Yakima Valley. Data from the monitors will help the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency (YRCAA) and the Washington Department of Ecology develop ways to improve air quality in the Yakima Valley.

While the Yakima Valley currently meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, there are ongoing concerns about elevated levels of air pollution from wood smoke during the winter when people heat their homes. The monitors will support ongoing efforts to track air pollution levels throughout the Yakima Valley with existing monitors in Toppenish, Yakima and White Swan.

The monitors will be located at Harrison Middle School in Sunnyside, Wash. One monitor is a PM 2.5 Nephelometer and the other a Federal Reference Method PM 2.5 sampler. Both will collect data from Oct. 1, 2015, through Feb. 28, 2016.

YRCAA is working to reduce fine particle pollution with programs that encourage clean burning in woodstoves and through incentives to convert to cleaner home heating methods such as natural gas and electric. Air quality suffers year round in the Yakima Valley due to woods smoke in winter and wildfires in summer.

Particle pollution is a mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets primarily in smoke in the winter. It is made up of a number of components including acids, organic chemicals, metals, soil and dust. The agencies are especially concerned about particles that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller because those particles can pass through the throat and nose into the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can contribute to a variety of health risks. Health risks can include premature death in people with heart or lung disease; increased risk for heart attacks; and aggravated asthma and increased respiratory symptoms such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing. People with heart or lung diseases, children and older adults are the most likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure.

YRCAA installed and operated a portable and temporary PM 2.5 sampler (EBAM) funded by the Environmental Protection Agency that continuously monitored PM 2.5 values beginning in October 2014 to present. Those PM 2.5 values tracked very closely with those values measured at Yakima and Toppenish, indicating the area threatens to exceed the fine particulate National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) during the winter heating season. Ecology agreed that fine particulate levels in the fall and winter months had approached unhealthful levels and further, upgraded sampling efforts are warranted.

The public will be able to access near real time data from the monitors through the YRCAA website from Ecology’s network and more reliable data will be used to compare to the NAAQS.

For more information on the monitoring effort visit: YRCAA website: http://www.yakimacleanair.org
For more information on the health effects of particulate matter visit: http://www.epa.gov/pm/health.html

Contact:

Mark Edler, Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency, 509-834-2050 x110, mark@yrcaa.org
Camille St. Onge, Washington Department of Ecology, Communication Manager , 360-584-6501, camille.st.onge@ecy.wa.gov