Visit Kentucky’s new Water Health Portal

PortalHave you ever wondered about the health of a stream? Is it safe to swim in or eat fish from a particular body of water? The new Water Health Portal provides answers to those questions.

Accessing information is easy. Just go to http://watermaps.ky.gov/ and select Water Health Portal. Type in your location, click on a stream, and learn about the health of the water. Easily identifiable color-coded icons
indicate whether a stream or lake supports a particular use, such as swimming, fishing and drinking. Continue reading “Visit Kentucky’s new Water Health Portal”

A Field Guide to Particle Pollution

Particulate matter (PM) is one of six criteria pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act.  Last week, we told you about how the Division for Air Quality monitors for PM2.5 .  You may recall that PM2.5 is a mixture of both solid particles and liquid droplets measuring 2.5 microns or smaller in size.  Fine particulates can be emitted directly from a source, or they may form in the atmosphere when pollutants chemically combine.

Naturally, if you want to control air pollution, it helps to know which sources contribute to it.  But particle pollution is tricky.  Often, half or more of the PM2.5 mass is comprised of secondarily formed species – in other words, particles that formed through chemical reactions between other pollutants.  This makes it difficult to figure out where those pollutants came from. Continue reading “A Field Guide to Particle Pollution”

The Nitty Gritty of Fine Particle Pollution

The Division for Air Quality (DAQ) uses air monitoring data to understand how clean the air is in Kentucky.  Air monitoring is essential in demonstrating compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).  Think of a NAAQS – pronounced “nacks” – as a sort of “legal limit” for an air pollutant, established to protect human health and the environment.

The Clean Air Act establishes NAAQS for six major pollutants: lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter.  Particulate matter is further subdivided into two categories: coarse particles measuring 10 microns or less in diameter (PM10), and fine particles that measure 2.5 microns or less in diameter (PM2.5).

Last week we told you how the division monitors for PM10.  But that’s only half the picture.  PM2.5 is of special concern because it has the ability to penetrate into the deepest parts of the lungs.  Once there, these microscopic particles can cause chronic respiratory problems and lead to premature death.  PM2.5 pollution affects everyone, but children, the elderly, and those with existing health problems are most at risk.

How is PM2.5 Monitored?

DAQ environmental inspector Jennifer Brown points to a cylindrical magazine that holds sample filters inside a PM2.5 monitor in Somerset, KY.
DAQ environmental inspector Jennifer Brown points to a cylindrical magazine that holds sample filters inside a PM2.5 monitor in Somerset, KY.

PM2.5 is actually a mixture of both solid particles and liquid droplets measuring 2.5 microns or smaller in size.  Fine particulates can be emitted directly from a source, or they may form in the atmosphere when pollutants chemically combine.  Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds are all examples of pollutants that can transform by chemical reactions.

To determine compliance with the NAAQS, the division uses manual intermittent samplers, which collect an air sample over a 24-hour run cycle, typically once every three days (although some samplers operate every sixth or twelfth day.)  These samplers operate by drawing a measured volume of air through a pre-weighed filter.  Before reaching the filter, the air passes through an impaction chamber where larger particles fall out of the air stream, while particles 2.5 microns and smaller pass on to the sample filter where they are collected.

Once the sample run is completed, filters are bagged and transported on ice to DAQ’s weigh lab in Frankfort.
Once the sample run is completed, filters are bagged and transported on ice to DAQ’s weigh lab in Frankfort.

 

After completion of the sample run, the filter is removed from the sampler and re-weighed to determine the mass of the particulates collected.

 

Once inside the climate-controlled weigh lab, PM2.5 sample filters rest in trays for a minimum of 24 hours to acclimate to environmental conditions before weighing.
Once inside the climate-controlled weigh lab, PM2.5 sample filters rest in trays for a minimum of 24 hours to acclimate to environmental conditions before weighing.

 

 

All filters are weighed gravimetrically (or by mass) both before and after sampling in the division’s particulate matter weigh lab to determine the amount of mass gained during the sample run.  Prior to weighing, the filters must first be allowed time to acclimate to the environmental conditions of the laboratory.

This filter is ready to be weighed.  Notice the unique UPC code that tags all data associated with this filter.
This filter is ready to be weighed. Notice the unique UPC code that tags all data associated with this filter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAQ environmental technologist Ashley Bedel loads the filter into the autohandler for weighing.  The actual weigh chamber can be seen in the background under the protective white draft shield.
DAQ environmental technologist Ashley Bedel loads the filter into the autohandler for weighing. The actual weigh chamber can be seen in the background under the protective white draft shield.

The weigh lab is operated by an analyst,who works with an automated weighing system called an autohandler.  Think of the autohandler as a “robot” that enables multiple filters to be assessed within a single weigh session.  Each filter is analyzed in accordance with EPA-approved methods and regulatory requirements.  The temperature and humidity within the weigh-laboratory are monitored with National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) traceable equipment to document environmental compliance.

Recent Training Course a Success

Environmental professionals recently attended a two-day training course in Lexington, Ky.

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Photo by Juliana Cheatham

Continue reading “Recent Training Course a Success”

Pineville to Mitigate Virginia Avenue Combined Sewer Overflows

On May 29, 2014, the Kentucky Office of the Governor announced that the city of Pineville is the recipient of $2.2 million for completion of the Virginia Avenue sewer replacement project. The project will increase the city’s sewer system capacity and help decrease wastewater overflow into the Cumberland River.

Funding for the project includes a $1 million Community Development Block Grant, a $500,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant, a $533,000 Kentucky Infrastructure Authority State Revolving Fund loan, and a $200,000 Kentucky Infrastructure Authority planning and design loan.  Continue reading “Pineville to Mitigate Virginia Avenue Combined Sewer Overflows”

Emission Reductions from Power Plants Linked to Air Quality Improvements

Kentucky’s relationship with coal is long standing and remains a significant component to the state’s energy profile and economy. From mining to electricity generation, Kentucky’s coal mines are responsible for over 14,000 on-site jobs. With such close proximity to this natural resource, it’s no surprise that in 2012, ninety seven percent of Kentucky’s electricity generation came from coal-fired power plants, resulting in some of the lowest electricity rates in the nation. The secondary effect of this is Kentucky’s ability to attract and retain energy intensive manufacturing operations. Continue reading “Emission Reductions from Power Plants Linked to Air Quality Improvements”

Beam Upgrades KY EXCEL Membership

Facilities become master members

Beam Inc., a leading global premium spirits company, has upgraded its Clermont and Boston, Ky., facilities’ memberships in the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection’s (DEP) environmental leadership program, KY EXCEL, to a Master member – the program’s highest level.

KY EXCEL recognizes public, corporate and private sector organizations that act to improve Kentucky’s diverse and unique environment through environmental leadership.

“The Department for Environmental Protection is pleased that Beam has chosen to upgrade its membership in the KY EXCEL program to the Master level,” said Aaron Keatley, deputy commissioner of DEP and acting director of the Division of Compliance Assistance. “Beam continues to expand its efforts to preserve and protect the environment through voluntary activities at its facilities. We support these efforts and congratulate Beam for taking its membership in the program to a higher level.” Continue reading “Beam Upgrades KY EXCEL Membership”