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Health Department seeks public’s input on additional air monitoring stations

The state Health Department announced Wednesday it is installing 10 additional, permanent air quality monitoring stations on Hawaii island to bolster data collection for vog conditions around the island and that it wants the public’s input on where to locate them.

Currently, there are five permanent stations which measure fine particles and sulfur dioxide in Hilo, Mountain View, Pahala, Ocean View and Kona.

Although specific locations have not been determined yet, the state Health Department has identified general areas where monitoring is needed, including South Kohala, North Kona and South Kona on the west side of the island. When all of the stations are in place, the state’s ambient air monitoring network will have a total of 25 stations statewide, including two stations at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

The state invites Hawaii island residents to submit location suggestions for these additional monitoring stations to enhance response efforts to the ongoing Kilauea eruption. When fully operational, the stations will provide real-time data from different parts of the island so emergency responders can advise residents and visitors on appropriate actions to take to protect their health and safety.

“The input we have received from residents during community meetings has been invaluable,” said health director Bruce Anderson in a news release. “We want to encourage ongoing dialogue so we can better address their concerns and ensure an effective response.”

Air quality monitoring stations — which cost up to $120,000 each — measure pollution, including ash in the air and gases such as sulfur dioxide. Monitors closer to the Kilauea East Rift Zone also gauge levels of hydrogen sulfide in the air. The data is used to provide air pollution updates to the public in a timely manner, identify trends, forecast air quality, correlate air quality to health effects, guide emergency management activities and support air pollution studies.

A station installation typically takes from a few months up to a year to complete, but the state Health Department is speeding up the process.

Criteria for selecting an air quality monitoring station site, which is based on rigorous U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulatory requirements, include:

>> Atmospheric conditions: This includes the effects of buildings, terrain, and heat sources or sinks on air trajectories that can produce anomalies of pollutant concentrations. Meteorology is also considered in determining the geographic location of a site as well as the height, direction, extension of sampling probes, and prevailing wind conditions.

>> Logistics: This includes procurement, site security, set-up and maintenance and transportation of material and personnel for the monitoring operation.

>> Security risks: The state Health Department is considering air quality monitoring sites at schools since they offer secure areas to minimize the threats of theft and vandalism. As additional benefits, the schools will have access to data to determine the best actions for students, such as sheltering in place and whether it is safe to go outdoors for recess. It can also serve as a learning tool for the students.

>> Economics: Includes the resources required for site acquisition, site preparation, data collection activities, instrumentation, installation, maintenance, data retrieval, data analysis, quality assurance and data interpretation.

The community can email suggestions, using these criteria, to the DOH’s Clean Air Branch at by June 27.

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