Energy & Environment

EPA awards another $500,000 grant for air-quality monitoring in Houston neighborhoods

A grant awarded this week by the federal agency will expand air-quality monitoring in the Fifth Ward, Galena Park, Pleasantville and Sunnyside neighborhoods. Earlier this year, the EPA awarded $500,000 for air monitoring in four other communities in East Houston.

Sunnyside Air Quality Monitor
Katie Watkins/Houston Public Media
Jo Ann Jones- Burbridge (left) and Debra Walker (right) with the Sunnyside Community Redevelopment Organization show the air monitor they installed at Walker’s house in Sunnyside.

A nearly $500,000 grant awarded this week by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will help four Houston communities monitor hazardous air pollutants over a three-year period, with the goal of using that data to increase pollution awareness among residents and provoke mitigating action by government officials at the local, state and federal levels.

Achieving Community Tasks Successfully (ACTS) received the $498,813 award on behalf of the Data to Action Houston groups in the Fifth Ward, Galena Park, Pleasantville and Sunnyside neighborhoods, which already are monitoring their air quality with low-cost censors. The grant from the federal agency will help them expand those efforts, according to ACTS founder and executive director Bridgette Murray.

The communities will create a mobile air monitoring campaign to conduct a baseline survey and track localized exposures to cancer-causing pollutants such as acrolein, ethylene oxide, 1,3-butadiene and formaldehyde, according to a news release from the EPA. The effort also will monitor pollution concentrations near "super emitter" industrial facilities in Harris County and include a community outreach program to share obtained data with local officials as well as residents to help educate them about pollution and its health impacts.

"This funding is a significant opportunity to advance climate justice and equity, generate essential data and equip communities and government leaders to work together toward cleaner, healthier air for everyone," Grace Tee Lewis, a senior health scientist with the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, said in a news release from the EPA.

The Houston Health Department received a $500,000 grant from the EPA in July for targeted air monitoring in the East Houston communities of Allendale, Meadowbrook, Park Place and Pecan Park, which are particularly impacted by air pollution. That funding is going toward nine stationary air monitors as well as a mobile monitoring unit that also will detect cancer-causing pollutants.

The EPA's latest award to Houston neighborhoods, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, comes as the Environmental Integrity Project released a new report Thursday that found the city's low-income communities of color are disproportionately affected by worsening air quality. Several Houston-area air quality monitors this year measured smog levels that violated federal standards, according to the report, which found that the highest concentrations of smog were near Black, Latino or low-income neighborhoods.

"I'm grateful that more federal funds are coming into our neighborhoods," U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, a Houston Democrat, said in the news release from the EPA. "When we invest in air quality monitoring, educate our communities and prioritize solutions, our community can begin to take steps towards a clean and healthy place to thrive."