Cowtown Air Quality Monitor moved to new location


It’s been in the works for three years and earlier this month that work finally paid off.

The air quality monitor located at the El Dorado Holding property just east of Maricopa has been moved to a new site just off of White and Parker Road.

“We’ve been at this a long time,” said Air Quality Director Mike Sundblom. “Our lease was running out with El Dorado Holdings and we knew we had to take action to get the monitor to a new location. But it isn’t as simple as just moving it down the road. There are a lot of hoops you must go through to make that happen.”

Those hoops included finding a new location that was county-owned property (to save on lease payments) and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved.

“The first thing we did was conduct a field study,” Sundblom said. “That meant installing two field monitors in different locations so that we could monitor the particulates in each potential site. Those readings had to match or come close to the readings we had from the Cowtown monitor.”

Following a year-long field study that lasted from June 2014 to June 2015, the Air Quality Department then filed those reports to the EPA. Sundblom said getting approval for the new site from the EPA was the biggest hurdle they had to go through.

“Having clean air is an important quality of life issue that we’re working hard to improve,” stated Vice-Chairman Anthony Smith. “The purpose of relocating the monitor to a more suitable location allows us to stay vigilant towards the overall goal of reducing dust and allows the former location to be returned to its owner for another purpose.”

Air quality monitors measure the amount of particulates in the air that we breathe. There are two types Pinal County measures: PM-10 and PM-2.5. To compare, the size of a dust molecule from a PM-10 particulate is less than 10 microns in diameter or the seventh of the size of a human hair.

“They had to look at all the documents and data to make sure everything was equivalent to the old Cowtown site. We received written notification from the EPA in October 2015. Once that was achieved we were ready to go with land acquisition and site preparation.”

From October to January, Air Quality crews worked extra hours to prepare the new site to house a monitor. That included installing power, security measures and proper access. Earlier this month, the monitor was up and running.

“People may wonder why what is all the fuss over relocating an air quality monitor,” Sundblom stated. “But this area is considered in “non-attainment” by the EPA. This means the dust particulates in the air are higher than the EPA recommends. The Cowtown site data has shown quite high numbers over the past decade due to the dirt roads, construction and feed lots in the area. But thanks to the help from the farmers, ranchers and developers, we have been able to lower those numbers over the past couple of years.”

There are 13 air quality monitors working in Pinal County. Ten monitors measure PM-10 and the other three measure PM-2.5. The data is accessible by anyone. Just go to the website for measurements from any of the air quality monitors.