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Muscatine Residents Launch "Bucket Brigade" Air Monitoring Project

For the first time Detroit community members will be testing the air they breathe with method developed by Erin Brockovitch

April 12, 2012


Jessica Brackett Executive Director, Clean Air Muscatine


Ruth Breech, Program Director, Global Community Monitor


(Muscatine) – Muscatine residents, over burdened by toxic pollution will bring in a team of international pollution busters, the Global Community Monitor, to learn how to measure contamination themselves. Clean Air Muscatine and Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility will be organizing Muscatine residents to participate in the training and testing. 

“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.

One Friday, April 13, 2012, the public is invited to a meeting outlining the previous work of Global Community Monitor, and the work planned in Muscatine. The meeting begins at 6 pm in the Student Center at Muscatine Community College.

On Saturday, April 14, 2012, volunteers will participate in training on how to obtain their own air samples starting at 9:00 am at the Musserville Methodist Church, 1001 Oregon St. The new Bucket Brigade members will be going back to neighborhoods around Muscatine to obtain their samples and begin gathering evidence in support of their campaigns to reduce harmful local pollution.

The "Bucket Brigade" is a simple, but effective, tool that dozens of communities have used, and are using, to find out for themselves what chemicals are in the air.  Armed with their own data and information about the health effects of chemicals, these communities are winning impressive reductions of pollution, safety improvements and increasing enforcement of environmental laws.

The "Bucket Brigade" is named for an easy to use air sampling device housed inside a 5 gallon plastic bucket, not unlike the ones janitors use for mopping floors.  The "Bucket" was developed in Northern California in 1995 by an environmental engineering firm to simplify and reduce the costs of widely accepted methods used for testing toxic gases in the air. This plastic bucket is now becoming an essential tool to help communities clean up air pollution.

The 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: a user-friendly device, housed inside a bucket that can "grab" and store air samples for analysis.

"The Global Community Monitor took this idea of simplifying environmental sampling and has developed a whole tool kit of methods to test for particulate pollution, heavy metals and a wide range of toxins," said Ruth Breech, who will be conducting the Muscatine workshop.  The Global Community Monitor has traveled throughout the United States, Africa and Asia, teaching neighborhood groups how to battle pollution. "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."

She 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."


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