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Citizens group monitors area’s air

By Connie Cartmell, ccartmell@mariettatimes.com

MITCH CASEY The Marietta Times

Ruth Breech, left, of Ohio Citizen Action, and Lesley Kuhl, of Marietta and a member of Neighbors for Clean Air, discuss how a new air-monitoring device fitted to the top of a car works Tuesday while the group was testing air quality on Hanna Road north of a cluster of industrial plants along Ohio 7. The computer monitoring equipment will be used frequently by the group in upcoming weeks in an effort to test Washington County's air quality.

The quality of the air you breathe is under the microscope this week.

Initial air samples taken Tuesday afternoon by a group of citizens along Ohio 7, in the area between Marietta and Belpre, showed readings high in two chemicals in particular — ammonia and nitrogen oxide. There’s been no evaluation yet on any health impact of these findings, but a report will be forthcoming.

“This is providing just one more bit of evidence in a long line that we’ve been hearing since we moved here in 2002,” said Dennis Kuhl.

Neighbors for Clean Air, a local group formed to identify and combat air pollution in the region, is working with Ohio Citizen Action, a consumer advocacy group based in Cincinnati, to gather air quality data. About five people took part in the air sampling Tuesday.

In addition to the air samples taken Tuesday, a training session on the electronic instruments being used to test the air was held for the group and other interested citizens Tuesday night at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. Ruth Breech, southern Ohio program director for Ohio Citizen Action, is coordinating the effort.

“It’s exciting,” said Breech, exhilarated from an afternoon of air sampling. “This area is a hotbed. Definitely, something needs to be done. We know that the ammonia comes from Eramet.”

Officials with Eramet could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but have said in the past that the company’s releases are within Ohio Environmental Protection Agency standards.

The small group gathering data Tuesday reported sensory evidence, as well as numbers from their instrument called “The Hound.”

“You follow your nose,” Breech said. “You can feel the chemicals in the air and things begin to pop.”

Lesley Kuhl, a member of Neighbors for Clean Air, and the wife of Dennis Kuhl, accompanied Breech and others, gathering air samples.

“First we got the smell,” she said. “You could even feel it in your teeth sometimes. My eyes were hurting and by the end of the afternoon, I had a headache.”

Data collected is stored and returned to Cerex laboratories, where the citizen group got the equipment, for further evaluation. Breech said a report will be available to the public when results are in.

The air sampling instrument is on loan to the consumer advocacy group.

“Communities have a right to know what they are breathing and to know what chemicals are being used at these plants,” Breech said in an earlier interview in The Marietta Times.

Target industries for the current testing program are Eramet, Solvay Advanced Polymers, Degussa Corporation, and Kraton Polymers, she said.

A goal is to force local industries to reduce air pollution emissions.

“We took one sample at the scenic lookout along Ohio 7 and found high levels of nitrogen oxide,” Breech said. “These are all preliminary and need to go through quality assurance.”

Jim Leach, spokesman with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said Monday that he wasn’t aware of citizen monitoring in Marietta, or the area, and results will depend on the methodology used and the contracting firm.

The group may submit any data gathered to the Ohio EPA, he said.

“How it relates to current ambient air monitoring there, we don’t know,” said Bruce Weinberg, manager of the air division of the Ohio EPA for the Southeast District office in Logan. “We don’t know how it will overlap, without seeing what they are trying to do.”

Weinberg said there has been scheduled monitoring in this area for air pollutants for some time. One monitoring station is near the Washington County Career Center, he said.

“We’ve had many citizens groups concerned about air and water quality,” he said. “We try to watch and collect data as much as we can, depending on the source, but we’re limited in what we can do. We can’t be there 24 hours.”

Weinberg was positive when told the citizen group it would complete a training session before further air sampling and gathering continues this week.

“That’s a good sign,” he said.

Kuhl said her involvement is simply because she is a parent of two young children and is concerned.

“I am grateful that people have come here with this expensive equipment to help us,” Lesley Kuhl said. “I’m just doing what any parent would want to do.”

The focus of Neighbors for Clean Air sharpened during recent opposition of House Bill 496 and Senate Bills 264 and 265. The bills, if signed by Gov. Bob Taft, would return control of pollution regulations to the federal government, which has standards substantially lower than Ohio and 38 other states.

“It’s not that we want to catch anyone doing something wrong,” Kuhl said. “But people should be held accountable.”



For more

information

Questions or for more information: Ohio Citizen Action, (513) 221-2100.

 

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