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For Release: Thursday, August 31, 2023

DEC Wins Google Cloud Customer Sustainability Award for Statewide Community Air Quality Monitoring Initiative

Effort Collects Air Pollution Data to Help Identify Sources Contributing to Disproportionate Air Quality Burdens in Disadvantaged Communities across New York State  

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced DEC received the 2023 Google Cloud Customer Sustainability Award (link leaves DEC's website) for its statewide Community Air Monitoring Initiative. The goal of this effort is to collect block-level air pollution data to help identify sources contributing to disproportionate air pollution burdens and develop strategies to reduce air pollution within disadvantaged communities, including greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. The ongoing initiative uses mobile mapping technology and professional analytics from Aclima, run exclusively on Google Cloud.

"DEC is proud of the recognition from Google Cloud and remains committed to working collaboratively with communities and organizations to prioritize environmental justice, identify sources of pollution, and work to improve air quality in neighborhoods across New York State," Commissioner Seggos said. "New York is a national leader when it comes to improving air quality, combating climate change, and working to build healthier communities."

In 2022, DEC launched the first-of-its-kind air quality and greenhouse gas mobile monitoring initiative in 10 disadvantaged communities (DACs) across the state. The targeted areas are home to approximately five million New Yorkers and include neighborhoods overburdened by environmental pollution. The 10 communities were selected for air quality monitoring using criteria developed by the State's Climate Justice Working Group. (Link leaves DEC's website) Comprised of members of Environmental Justice and community organizations across the state, the Working Group helps ensure all of New York's communities benefit from the implementation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act). (Link Leaves DEC's website)

The 10 communities were identified as having a disproportionate air pollution burden and include Buffalo/Niagara Falls/Tonawanda, Capital Region, Bronx, Manhattan, Rochester, Syracuse, Mount Vernon/Yonkers/New Rochelle, Brooklyn, Queens, and Hempstead/New Cassel/Roosevelt/Uniondale/Westbury. The results of the monitoring will drive solutions to reduce greenhouse gases and other harmful air pollutants to protect public health.

New York State contracted with Aclima to measure air pollution from sources such as cars, diesel trucks, construction equipment, commercial sources, and industrial facilities. Air pollution data is collected by Aclima cars with sensors driving along neighborhood streets, block-by-block, and across communities. Measurements are made by driving at least 20 times on each road segment at different times of day, days of the week, and seasons of the year. Community-based organizations in each community helped to identify and define specific areas for monitoring.

DEC is using the mobile monitoring data to identify locations of concern by looking for areas with repeated peaks, or higher than usual levels, of pollution. DEC is providing regular updates on preliminary data and gathering community input to help develop community-driven solutions to reduce air pollution. DEC scientists will use the data collected to identify potential pollution sources, paying careful attention to places with sensitive individuals and vulnerable populations such as schools, daycare facilities, and nursing homes. At the end of the full year of collection, DEC and Aclima will validate all the preliminary data. The verified data are then used in computer models to produce maps of annual concentration estimates for each pollutant by road segment. These maps will be available to the public on an interactive website. All information including community input, mobile monitoring data, and other air monitoring and emissions data will be used to inform pollutant reduction strategies.

The Climate Act requires DEC and community stakeholders to propose pollutant reduction strategies by June 2024. At the completion of monitoring, DEC will advance strategies to reduce emissions of toxic air contaminants, criteria air pollutants, and greenhouse gases in these communities.

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