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Iowa PSR partnered with Clean Air Muscatine (CLAM) to bring Global Community Monitor (GCM) for a weekend training event on April 13, 2012. The “Bucket Brigade” method will enable the residents of Muscatine, Iowa to measure the air contaminants burdening their community. People can take a sample of a (pollution) release as it occurs, to prove their exposure.
“Residents of Muscatine believe their health is affected from breathing polluted air. Our goal is to measure the amount of toxins from nearby industries and connect the dots,” said Dr. Maureen McCue, Director of Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility. According to EPA NAAQS, Muscatine has the poorest air quality in the state.
The "Bucket Brigade" method uses a simple device, housed inside a bucket that can "grab" and store air samples at the time residents are experiencing intense smells, visuals, and physical effects from the air. The samples are sent on to an EPA accredited laboratory for accurate analysis of 67 VOCs and 20 sulfur compounds. PM 2.5 (and lead +39 heavy metals) will also be sampled and analyzed using a filter device that will be mounted in various locations. Residents are concerned about the concentration of particulates at geographically diverse locations outside of those currently monitored by the DNR.
GCM trainer Ruth Breech 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," Breech said. "The Bucket Brigade has been very effective in breaking through this problem." GCM has helped communities across the nation and the globe gain a seat at the bargaining table with local polluters and governments to improve their air quality.
Over the two-day training, participants took a “toxic tour” of their community and learned about the health hazards of the various pollutants specific to their area. Many residents were alarmed to learn that their local schools were among the worst rated for air quality in the United States – none of them better than the worst 15th percentile. Many expressed frustration with the economic-political pyramid of power in the area; CLAM has been organized since 2011, but has consistently been ignored and denigrated by local governmental and quasi-governmental boards and commissions. As one participant stated, “Now they can’t ignore us – now we’ll have science and math in these buckets”.
One of the large coal ash dump sites located in Muscatine, Iowa.