EPA Air quality MN Grants

Great news! The City of Minneapolis and Red Lake Nation will receive air quality monitoring grants from the Biden Administration

Read more about how your city and county can advance air quality at our Air Quality Topic Team Page https://rccmn.co/air-quality/

Selections for the ARP Enhanced Air Quality Monitoring Competitive Grant
EPA is selecting 132 projects, in 37 states, to receive a total of $53.4 million to conduct ambient air monitoring of pollutants in communities across the country with environmental and health outcome disparities stemming from pollution and the COVID-19 pandemic. EPA will start the process to award the funding by the end of 2022, once the grant applicants have met all legal and administrative requirements.


City of Minneapolis MN $411,170

Recipient will collaborate with community members from environmental justice neighborhoods, community‐based organizations, residents, and educators to monitor for exposures to pollutants from industrial and residential activities as well as traffic, develop air quality curriculum, outreach materials, and hands on activities with air sensors as well as understanding and interpreting air sensor data, and increase understanding of air pollution sources and strategies to mitigate air pollution in environmental justice communities.

Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians MN $67,500

Recipient will purchase, install, and operate an air quality monitor on the Red Lake Reservation and make near air quality data and alerts available to Red Lake Nation via various websites. Project will strengthen Tribal-State relationships, increase awareness of ground-level ozone in the environment, and reduce human exposure to ozone resulting in improved health.

Minneapolis will deploy air pollution monitors with grant from Biden administration
The city’s plan is part of $50 million in grants nationwide for communities to detect dangerous air.

NOVEMBER 3, 2022 — 2:25PM
By Chloe Johnson, Star Tribune; Halle Parker/New Orleans Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency will funnel more than $50 million into expanding air monitoring within communities strugging with pollution, according to an announcement on Thursday.

That includes roughly $411,000 sent to the city of Minneapolis, which will use the funding to expand an existing air monitoring program and focus on the city’s green zones, where residents have faced the combination of environmental pollution and racial segregation.

In all, money will fund 132 projects proposed across the country, including 19 in states bordering the Mississippi River. Officials and advocates said building out community monitoring will help give residents a clearer picture of what’s in the air they breathe.

In a press call this week, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the move advances the Biden administration’s commitment to invest in areas that have suffered decades of environmental injustice.

Research has shown that low-income, Black, Brown and Indigenous communities are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards, including toxic air. Communities along the Mississippi River – from New Orleans to Memphis to Wood River, Illinois – host hotspots for pollution. Drawn to the availability of water and easy navigation, manufacturing plants stretch along the entirety of the river’s banks.

“Empowering our communities to gather quality data about the air they breathe will help ensure dozens of overburdened communities have the tools they need to better understand the air quality challenges in their neighborhoods, and will protect people from the dangers posed by air pollution,” Regan said.

In Minneapolis, the city has already installed or will install about 100 sensors to measure tiny lung-damaging particulate matter and toxic gases, said Jennifer Lansing, a senior environmental research analyst with the city’s Health Department. The sensors have been placed in neighborhoods where residents signaled concern about the air they breathe, and some of the results can be viewed in real time on the PurpleAir website.

“We’ve been working with the community from the beginning to develop a plan for community air monitoring,” Lansing said.

With the new EPA funding, Minneapolis will be able to add 30 specialized cannisters to sample air, and then analyze those samples in a lab. The results will determine which volatile organic compounds may be present, Lansing said.

These VOCs are a large class of vapors that can irritate the eyes and nose or throat of the people who breathe them, and in more serious cases, damage the liver, kidney and nervous system, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Minneapolis has grappled with polluting industry in the past, most notably from Northern Metal Recycling, a facility on the Mississippi that the state found had altered its air emissions records. It moved its metal shredding from north Minneapolis to Becker in 2019 but continued to run a junkyard in the city until an industrial storage company bought the land this year.

In its grant application, the city wrote that today, it receives “daily complaints” about odors and possible pollution from several industrial sites, including “a metal recycling facility, two asphalt shingle producers, an asphalt surface producer, a foundry, a metal finisher, a printer, industrial cleaning facilities, a garbage incinerator, and energy production.”

About $20 million of the EPA grants will come from the 2021 American Rescue Plan, and another $32 million was allocated by the Inflation Reduction Act passed in August, according to Regan.

The only other grant awarded in this round in Minnesota totals $67,500 for the Red Lake Nation, north of Bemidji. Tribal officials will buy an air monitor and test for ground-level ozone, in an effort to help fill a gap in the MPCA’s monitoring network, said Jennifer Malinski, an environmental specialist with the band. Ozone is an irritant to young people, old people and those with respiratory conditions like asthma, according to the American Lung Association.

“Part of why we have never monitored [for ozone] is because it’s expensive to get started, and it’s prohibitive,” Malinski said.

For some parts of the country, the funding is a long time coming.

After years of fighting against pollution from a nearby industrial plant, Robert Taylor, an advocate and resident in St. John the Baptist Parish, in south Louisiana, welcomed the influx of money to improve local air monitoring. His parish will benefit from a $498,000 community air monitoring program led by a New Orleans-based nonprofit, the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice.

“There is before us now the opportunity to alleviate some of the long-term problems we have, that we have struggled against without any kind of positive reaction from any government agency,” Taylor said Wednesday.

In Reserve, La., Taylor and his neighbors have called for Denka Performance Elastomers, a neoprene manufacturing plant, to lower its emissions of chloroprene, a likely carcinogen, since 2016. Though the plant, in coordination with the state Department of Environmental Quality, has lowered its emissions, it hasn’t been enough to reduce residents’ exposure to levels deemed acceptable by the EPA.

Two Louisiana state agencies are currently under a federal investigation by the EPA over whether their failure to lower emissions and inform residents of the chemical’s health risk violate federal law. After going so long without results, Taylor said residents are reinvigorated.

“The onslaught of this chemical industry and its resulting devastation in terms of our health was being ignored, and the people here now do have hope,” Taylor said.

Including Taylor’s community, about $8 million worth of projects were funded in states bordering the Mississippi River.

The money for community air monitoring marks the agency’s first grants funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, Regan said.

Regan didn’t guarantee that the one-time grants would be renewed, noting that money to continue the air monitoring programs would need to come from another source.

“As we continue to move forward and look at new opportunities down the road, it will depend on which community is capable of applying for what grants in the future that will determine where they get future resources,” Regan said.

This story is a product of the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk, an editorially independent reporting network based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in partnership with Report For America and the Society of Environmental Journalists, funded by the Walton Family Foundation.

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