Clean Air for Rockland, others launch community air checks
VillageSoup/Knox County Times
Clean Air for Rockland has joined with other Maine community groups to launch community air monitoring in toxic hot spots.
For the first time, community members will test the air they breathe, the citizen group said in a press release.
Larson of Global Community Monitor, center, visits Rockland Aug. 7 to
talk with the citizen group Clean Air for Rockland. Also pictured, from
left, are David Webbenhurst, Taren Hallweaver of Maine Toxics Action,
Sandra Schramm, Julia Schulz and Gayle Carpentier. (Image courtesy of
Clean Air for Rockland)
Maine community groups concerned about toxic
pollution are working to bring in a team of international pollution
busters — Global Community Monitor — to learn how to measure
Maine Toxics Action
recently organized some of its partner groups to participate in
training sessions across Maine. Denny Larson, Global Community Monitor
executive director, visited “hot spots” throughout Maine including
Rockland prior to the training session.
On Aug. 11,
Sandra Schramm, spokeswoman for Clean Air for Rockland, joined other
volunteers from communities all over the state to participate in
training on how to obtain their own air samples. The groups will go
back to their neighborhoods to obtain air samples and begin gathering
evidence in support of their campaigns to reduce harmful local
Clean Air for Rockland will test diesel
emissions near homes while other communities will test neighborhoods
near construction and debris dumps, pesticide spraying, asphalt plants
and other toxic sources.
The "Bucket Brigade" is a
simple, but effective tool that dozens of communities have used to find
out what chemicals are in the air. Armed with their own data and
information about the health effects of chemicals, these communities
are winning reductions of pollution and safety improvements and
increasing enforcement of environmental laws, according to the press
The "Bucket Brigade" is named for an easy
to use air sampling device housed inside a five-gallon plastic bucket.
The bucket idea originated in 1995 with Edward Masry, the attorney who
worked with environmental activist Erin Brockovich. Angry about a
release of toxic fumes from an oil refinery in Contra Costa County,
Calif., he sought a way for ordinary people to document air pollution.
The result was a user-friendly device, housed inside a bucket, that can
"grab" and store air samples for analysis.
professional version of this is encased in a stainless steel canister
and costs a couple thousand bucks," Larson said. "But these can be
manufactured for about $125."
Larson has traveled
throughout the United States, Africa and Asia, teaching neighborhood
groups how to battle pollution. "I've sort of been acting as the Johnny
Appleseed of the Bucket Brigade," he said. "This system is the
environmental equivalent of a crime watch program. People can take a
sample of a [pollution] release as it occurs, to prove their exposure."
said this can help hold companies accountable for chemicals that escape
beyond the boundaries of their operations. "There's no requirement that
they install monitoring systems at the fence line or in nearby
neighborhoods," Larson said. "The Bucket Brigade has been very
effective in breaking through this problem."
to Schramm, this technique is exactly what the Rockland group has been
waiting for. The group has long contended that diesel pollution from
the Maine Eastern Railroad locomotives is affecting residents' health,
"We will get lab results that will
determine exactly what we are being exposed to and know whether or not
these are safe levels,” she said in the press release.
bucket monitors can detect up to 87 different toxic gases, Larson said.
"The Environmental Protection Agency has approved this sampling method,
and the data can be used as evidence in court."
Harris Parnell, director of Maine Toxics Action, said the Bucket Brigade training is a valuable asset.
important to learn how to document [pollution] incidents," she said in
the press release. "By the time you can get someone to come out to the
community to test the air, you're not going to get an accurate sample.
The test kits provided through this program enable the residents to
take samples immediately."