City Rolls-Out New Mobile Air Monitor

Calling it an important new tool in the city's fight against dirty air, Houston officials have unveiled a half-million dollar mobile air monitoring unit that will soon travel to pollution hot spots. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

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The unit, basically a high-tech box truck, is the first of its kind in Houston and the entire region, a fully mobile lab of sorts that can move around the city and set-up where the air might be the worst. This is Mayor Bill White.

"The first step in making intelligent decisions as a community and enforcing laws that currently exist and in seeking new laws is to know exactly what is in our air and when and where it's coming from. This is truly state-of-the-art."

Officially known at a Mobile Ambient Air Monitoring Laboratory, the vehicle will measure particulate matter in the air, looking for dangerous levels of pollutants like benzine that can cause a variety of health problems. White sees the unit as an air quality patrol car of sorts that will seek out clean air violators.

"Just like a citizen ought to be responsible if they're going 90 miles an hour in a 60 mile an hour zone, we have radar there where they can be cited. It doesn't mean they're a bad person. It doesn't mean they should leave the community. You can think of this a little bit like a radar gun that can tell us who's speeding at high risk through this community, who's doing pollution."

The vehicle is outfitted with the latest pollution detection instruments, along with other tools that will provide readings on what's in the air and how clean or dirty it is. Arturo Blanco is the bureau chief of air quality control for the city.

"There's a GPS also in the vehicle that tells us the position of the vehicle in relation to the data. It has a tower, so we can use all of those tools to be able narrow what it is that we are measuring, where is it coming from, at what rate etc.."

The mobile monitor will deploy with a crew of three whenever it can and set-up in areas that historically have shown high readings for dangerous chemicals. Alex Cuclis is a research scientist with Houston Advanced Research Center and put together the grant that funded most of the project.

"The concern is that often if you just have set spots you're missing holes of where pollutants might be a problem and here we can move it to specific location to target any issue that might come up."

The mobile unit is expected to make it's first run in a couple of weeks. You can see pictures on our website,

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