Air quality monitors installed in county
August 15, 2019
By Diana Zimmerman
Thanks to some local officials, we now have two air quality monitors in Wahkiakum County.
It all started with a conversation at a Community Health Alliance Advisory Committee meeting after the fires in the county earlier this year, according to Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Deputy Director Dean Counts.
Someone mentioned that the air quality was fine in Longview but terrible here. The air quality monitor located in Longview wasn’t telling Wahkiakum County residents what they needed to know.
Had it become unhealthy for people with sensitive health issues? Was it worse than that?
Town of Cathlamet Council Member Ryan Smith said he was also on a committee for the Southwest Clean Air Agency, and he volunteered to reach out to them.
According to Counts, Uri Papish of SWCAA responded with good news: I might be able to get you a couple monitors.
He did. They belong to SWCAA, and are on an unlimited lease to the county.
“They are smaller monitors created by PurpleAir,” Counts said.
The health department got two monitors, one for Cathlamet, and the other for Rosburg.
“I figured because of KM, you could have a terrible day here, but it would be fine in Rosburg,” Counts said.
Placing a monitor in Rosburg will help keep Westend residents informed, but it turns out it will provide a service to Pacific County as well. They don’t have any air quality monitors.
HHS received the monitors in June. After receiving approval from the Johnson Park board, they placed one there.
There was more discussion about where to place the second monitor in Cathlamet. That’s when Wahkiakum School District Superintendent Brent Freeman stepped in and suggested they place it on school property.
Not only might it provide an ideal spot, but it provides a learning opportunity for students.
Initially they set it atop the stadium, but a move was necessitated after issues with an inconsistent wi-fi. It’s currently sitting near a dirt road and the sensitive device may need to be moved again.
Counts monitors the devices during the week and Freeman monitors them during the weekend, but anyone can visit the purpleair.com website and check the local levels by selecting the location.
Washington state standards have suggestions depending on the concentrations of particulate matter. Anything from 20.5-35.4 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. 35.5-80.4 is considered unhealthy for everyone.
On Tuesday, the monitors in Cathlamet and Rosburg read 13, which falls into a moderate category.
They soon hope to have the data posted on the Wahkiakum County website and someone is working on setting up a new county system that will act like a reverse 911 call for any kind of emergency, including providing information about air quality.