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 the installation of new air quality monitors at 44 sites in neighborhoods around Minneapolis and St. Paul. Over the next two years, these AQMesh pods monitored and sent back data to the MPCA on the following 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.

2020 In June, MPCA completed one year of air quality monitoring at all the installed sites around Minneapolis and St.Paul. Preliminary results of the data collected in the past year and broad trends for the various pollutants were shared with interested community members and stakeholders at a series of meetings in the fall.

2021 In June, the project was successfully completed with air monitoring data collected from the installed sites. All equipment from Minneapolis has since been taken down, but the monitors in St.Paul schools will continue to monitor air quality for another year. This is not part of the LCCMR project, but part of a developing partnership with the school science community.

A final report on findings and trends will be available fall 2021. A series of presentations to interested community members and stakeholders will also be announced after the release of the final report.

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. In fall 2019, 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.