Groups of concerned residents in two of the UK's most heavily
industrialised areas have this week initiated "bucket brigades",
organisations which will implement user-friendly techniques to assess the
air quality in their local area.
Communities in Grangemouth, Scotland and Teesside will be trained to use
a low-tech, affordable "bucket" to sample the air that surrounds their
area, which is frequently polluted by local industry. This ad hoc testing
will supplement tests which are already routinely carried out by the
Environment Agency Ð but will allow residents flexibility to collect
their own data when they feel the air is at its most intoxicating.
Denny Larson, Californian community campaigner who has worked on
developing the bucket programmes internationally, and is now implementing
it in the UK, told edie: "The residents will be able to test for 80
different toxic chemicals, and see how much is contaminating their air.
In other parts of the world we have developed citizens with effective
environmental monitoring abilities, some have been involved in developing
clean air legislation in conjunction with their governments."
The bucket method originates from the US where Brigades now exist in
Texas and Louisiana, and also in South Africa and the Philippines. The
system was developed in Northern California in 1995. "The bucket is a low
cost US$75 version of the US$2000 Suma canister used by government and
industry and is simple to use. Suspect air is drawn into a Tedlar bag
inside the bucket. The bag is then sealed and sent to a laboratory for
analysis," says the organisation's website.
As well as training the communities in how to use the buckets, they will
also be briefed in other environmental monitoring techniques such as
logging what the see, hear and smell, and collecting video and
photographic evidence. "It is like training them to be police in
environmental crime," Larson said. The collation of the evidence can then
be used to lobby environment agencies and the government, as well as
The "Impact" community based group in Teesside and the "Living within the
Glow" group in Grangemouth originated from Friends of the Earth (FOE)
work in the areas. FOE community development worker Carole Zagrovic told
edie: "This is a simple but effective tool. FOE will pay for the lab
analysis and then we will publicise the results to the community. We hope
the evidence will force companies to cut down emissions."
Past successes of the Bucket Brigade include the collection of evidence
in South Africa, which linked industry pollution to the rate of leukaemia
in the area. The Brigade's evidence forced the company to spend millions
on the reduction of emissions, says Larson.
"The associations are putting the voice and the face of the frontline
neighbours, those most affected by the toxins, at the front of the
debate. This process allows environmental justice to be restored, by
giving communities their say," said Larson.
Although no other UK communities are yet planning to set up a brigade,
Teesside and Grangemouth are being used as model projects so that other
areas in the can decide if they feel it is appropriate action for them to
take. "We hope brigades will soon be up and running all over Britain,"