Assessing Urban Air Quality project

The MPCA is starting a two-year project to help us understand more about how air quality differs across urban neighborhoods. We know that Minnesota’s air quality, as measured by the statewide monitoring network the MPCA has operated for many years, is generally good.

However, understanding small-scale differences in air pollution in urban areas also is important for minimizing exposure to harmful air pollutants, particularly for vulnerable communities. The Assessing Urban Air Quality project will use new air monitoring sensors to broaden our knowledge about air quality in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The $700,000 project is funded by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota's Resources (LCCMR). 

What is the project?

This project will operate a network of up to 50 air quality monitoring sensors that are both smaller and less expensive to operate than traditional air monitors. The sensors will monitor fine particles, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

There will be one monitor in each ZIP code in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and larger ZIP code areas may have more than one monitoring location. The MPCA is placing special emphasis on sharing the data with the public.

Project goals

In addition to the overall goal of understanding small-scale differences in air pollution in urban areas, MPCA scientists hope to better understand and answer these questions: 

  • Are there significant differences in pollutant concentrations between ZIP codes in the urban core?
  • Are there areas with unusually high pollutant concentrations?
  • Is this technology suitable for measuring small differences in air quality?

Where will air pollution monitors be located? 

The MPCA sought public input on the best locations for air monitors in September 2017, and hopes to begin installing the monitors later in January 2018. Location criteria include:

  • Proximity to daycares, schools, playgrounds, and senior housing
  • Proximity to residential areas
  • Proximity to traffic
  • The ideal location for monitors will be on easily accessible street poles 10-15 feet above ground and with minimal tree cover or obstruction, allowing for free flow of air

Community feedback 

After a series of successful community meetings to get input on placing the air quality sensor monitors across the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, we had close to 150 suggestions from residents as well as city and county officials. These points were all mapped and additional information such as environmental justice areas, land use coverage, topography and closest proximity to an Xcel utility pole, were taken into account.

The map below shows the resulting tentative locations of the 48 available monitors across all zip codes of the study areas. Two monitors will be co-located at MPCA regulatory sites for the duration of the study. These locations will be finalized based on Xcel Energy’s input on the availability of utility poles for mounting the monitors. Every effort will be made to ensure that the monitors will go up as close to these locations as possible. 

Map of 48 proposed monitoring sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul

Past community meetings

MPCA and the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul hosted a series of open houses to talk about the project and seek the public’s input on where to locate the sensors:

  • August 31st at Merriam Park Public Library, 1831 Marshall Ave., St. Paul
  • September 6th at Powderhorn Park Rec Center, 3500 15th Ave. S., Minneapolis
  • September 7th at Audubon Park Rec Center, 1320 29 Ave. NE, Minneapolis
  • September 11th at Farview Park Rec Center, 621 29th Ave. N., Minneapolis
  • September 25th at the Baker center, 209 Page St. W, St. Paul 

Couldn't make it to an open house? Check out the presentation: PDF icon Assessing Urban Air presentation

Updates on public meetings and data recorded by the monitors will appear on this page as the project moves forward.

Partners and collaborators on this project include the city of Minneapolis, the city of St. Paul, Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota State University-Mankato, and Xcel Energy.