Assessing Urban Air Quality project

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 is important for minimizing exposure to harmful air pollutants, particularly for vulnerable communities.

The Assessing Urban Air Quality project is using new air-monitoring sensor technology to broaden our knowledge about air quality in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Financial support for this project is provided by the Environment and natural resources trust fund (Subd. 07 Air Quality, Climate Change, and Renewable Energy ENRTF # 07b).

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

Project update

Spring 2019. MPCA completed installing new air quality monitors at 44 sites in neighborhoods around Minneapolis and St. Paul. Over the next two years, these AQMesh pods will monitor and send back data to the MPCA on these pollutants: coarse particles, fine particles, ozone, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide. There is at least one sensor in each ZIP code in Minneapolis and St. Paul. In St. Paul, most of them are placed on light poles in school parking lots; in Minneapolis they are on Xcel Energy wood street light poles in neighborhoods.

Sharing data

The MPCA is placing special emphasis on sharing the data with the public. This data tool allows community members to look at data from all the monitoring sites and make some simple comparisons.

 

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?

Community feedback

Community participation is an important part of this project. The MPCA held a series of community meetings and got about 150 suggestions from residents and city/county officials.

For more information about this project contact Monika Vadali: monika.vadali@state.mn.us or 651-757-2776.

Community meetings

During October, MPCA staff will update interested community members at a series of public meetings. We’ll talk about what the sensors are finding to date and seek suggestions on how to improve the data viewing tool.