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EPA Awards $290,000 to Micmac Tribe for Real-Time Air Monitoring Project

Release Date: 05/24/2002
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Projection Agency announced today it has awarded $290,000 to the Aroostook Band of Micmacs for an air monitoring and public education project in Northern Maine. The project will monitor air quality in real time and make the data immediately available to the public on a web site and through local media. The project will also use the data to generate alerts on poor air quality days, warning susceptible populations to limit outdoor activities.

"This is a great project that passed strict internal and external scientific peer review," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "It's going to help give area residents better information about the air they're breathing, in a way that helps them make better decisions about their daily lives."

Partners on the project include EPA, the National Weather Service, the Maine Departments of Health and Environmental Protection, the Maine Lung Association, and local media and colleges.

The program will be based at the tribal housing complex just west of Presque Isle, Maine. The program will install real-time monitors for important indicators, including nitrous oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), carbon dioxide, fine particulate matter, ozone, ultraviolet radiation, and visibility (using a digital camera). The data will be immediately available on a public web site, and local newspapers, radio and TV stations have agreed to print and broadcast air quality updates using the project's information. A subscription will also be available to the public for e-mail alerts when air quality is poor.

Poor air quality is a particular concern for the area, as Aroostook County has one of the highest asthma rates in the country. Poor air quality affects everyone but particularly children and adults who are active outdoors, and people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma. Exposure to poor air quality can cause serious breathing problems, aggravate asthma and other pre-existing lung diseases and make people more susceptible to respiratory infection. When elevated ozone levels are expected, EPA recommends that people limit strenuous outdoor activity.