You’ve probably seen them as you drive down the road: small buildings topped with strange-looking contraptions, surrounded by a fence. These are Kentucky’s air monitoring stations, and they are essential tools for telling us how clean our air is.
The Kentucky Division for Air Quality (DAQ) operates a network of these monitoring stations across the state, each with its own set of air sampling equipment to detect air pollutants. But the stations don’t run themselves; it’s up to DAQ staff to visit the stations regularly, to collect and replace filters and air samples and to make sure the equipment is working properly. And their job doesn’t stop for bad weather.
The monitoring equipment is
often located on top of the station building, accessed by ladder. During heavy snow or ice events, staff not only has to travel to the station but also come armed with snow shovels and ice melt just to gain access to the station.
Some stations can be especially challenging to reach in a heavy snow. Take the Grayson Lake site, for example. This air monitoring station is located in the scenic rolling hills of Camp Webb near Grayson Lake in northeastern Kentucky. The site received nearly a foot of snow in the recent winter storm.
One type of air monitor is designed to detect fine particulate pollution by pulling air through special filters. The filters must first be weighed in the division’s weigh lab in Frankfort, and then be delivered by UPS to the field office nearest to the monitoring station. What happens when UPS doesn’t deliver? Last week, staff drove hundreds of miles to hand-deliver filters, ensuring continued air sampling despite the bad weather.
Kentucky’s air quality has improved dramatically in the 45 years since the Clean Air Act was passed. Air monitors – and the DAQ staff who work with them – give us the essential data that enables us to chart our progress.