Publicly available data from air quality monitoring sites in Erie, Colorado. Source: Ajax Analytics
Residents of Erie, Colorado now have access to detailed data about the air that they’re breathing, thanks to a sophisticated air quality monitoring network deployed by Colorado State University atmospheric scientists and environmental data company Ajax Analytics.
The Town of Erie recently announced the launch of a public portal to view data collected by the monitoring stations, which were deployed in phases over the summer as part of the town’s Air Quality Monitoring Program. A map of the monitoring station locations is available on the town’s website.
Jeff Collett, professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science and a respected researcher in air toxics emissions from oil and gas operations, is leading CSU’s data collection and analysis as part of a contract with the Town of Erie. Collett’s team works in close partnership with Ajax Analytics, a Fort Collins-based firm that provides sensitive and real-time air quality data and maintains public-friendly dashboards to report the information to non-scientists.
“We are happy to be partners on this project with the Town of Erie and Ajax Analytics,” Collett said. “Data collection and analysis are the best ways to address current or future questions about environmental and personal impacts from air quality changes associated with oil and gas operations and other sources in Erie. We are looking forward to assessing findings from this expanded monitoring effort.”
How does air quality monitoring work?
The Ajax/CSU monitoring network, which consists of 10 real-time monitoring station locations, measures Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC), Particulate Matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and meteorological data. The real-time and previously collected data are available at ajax-analytics.com/erie.
Each sensor system is equipped with a triggering box. When the trigger is activated, it opens a valve to collect a sample of air. This trigger happens when the TVOC indicator reaches a certain threshold. Additionally, four sites collect continuous seven-day duration, whole-air canister samples.
Additional canisters are also available for one-off sample collection by staff or residents. These canisters are available for pick-up at Town Hall and can be reserved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canister samples are analyzed by the lab at the Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science using gas chromatography. The canister analysis measures 47 different VOC compounds plus methane and ethane. Canister sample reports are available for viewing at ajax-analytics.com/erie-event-reports.
Oil and gas is expanding
Erie is experiencing exceptional community growth, and its partnership with CSU and Ajax Analytics is part of their commitment to creating a high quality of life for residents. Erie currently has 138 active oil and gas wells throughout the town limits in addition to a regional landfill. The monitoring stations near these sites are intended to capture readings of emissions prior to dissipation as those emissions travel farther from the source. This should help staff determine if substantial emissions are present and potentially moving into residential areas.
“Collaboration with CSU and Ajax is a game changer for Erie,” said Town of Erie Energy & Environmental Program Specialist David Frank. “We know that collecting data will help us to make informed decisions in the future and working with two reputable teams who have implemented similar services in the region is going to help immensely.”
CSU and Ajax have similar air quality monitoring systems installed in nearby Broomfield, where additional drilling is underway. These new systems in Erie will add to the overall picture of air quality in the surrounding region.