FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 10, 2022
Andrew Whelan, CleanAIRE NC, (919) 408-7031, [email protected]
CleanAIRE NC Awarded $500,000 to Improve Air Monitoring in Sampson County
Sampson County, N.C. — CleanAIRE NC has been awarded $500,000 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish a community air monitoring network in Sampson County. The advocacy organization will target long-standing health and environmental injustices caused by cumulative air pollution impacts.
“We are thrilled to receive this grant, which will empower communities in Sampson County to target major sources of air pollution and protect their health,” said Jeffrey W. Robbins, Executive Director of CleanAIRE NC. “By creating a Sampson County Air Monitoring Network, residents will learn how to collect, analyze, and publicly report data on three major pollutants emitted in their communities that can drive higher mortality rates.”
CleanAIRE NC will use the grant to distribute low-cost air sensors in communities surrounding industrial-scale hog and poultry farms. These farms are heavily concentrated near communities of color, and emit air pollutants that cause significant health problems. By capturing air quality data near these facilities, residents can demonstrate an inequitable air pollution burden and motivate policymakers to change how major sources of air pollution in Sampson are regulated.
CleanAIRE NC will also work with the Environmental Justice Community Action Network (EJCAN) to provide clean air education, technology training, and advocacy training for community members. These resources will increase community capacity and empower residents to leverage their air quality data to reduce pollution in their communities and generate long-term health benefits.
“EJCAN is excited to partner with CleanAIRE NC in providing air monitors to local citizens,” said Sherri White-Williamson, chair of EJCAN and a Sampson County native. “By using the monitors, citizens will become more aware of what pollutants are in the air that they breathe every day.”
Sampson County is the second largest county in North Carolina, and over half its population are people of color. The county’s vast acreage makes it prime real estate for industry, which has significantly degraded both health and quality-of-life for many residents. In particular, Sampson has become the second-largest producer of swine and poultry in the U.S., trailing only neighboring Duplin County.
The industrial facilities housing the county’s 2.1 million swine leak untreated pig waste into the surrounding environment, and are a major source of several toxic air pollutants including fine particulate matter (PM2.5), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Each of these pollutants have been linked with the five leading causes of death in North Carolina: cancer; heart disease; diabetes; stroke; and chronic lower respiratory diseases (including asthma). Exposure has also been linked with other health risks, such as lower birth weights and mental health problems.
Despite these risks, Sampson County has historically been underserved by regulatory enforcement. North Carolina’s state-operated air quality stations tend to be geographically dispersed and near large cities, creating a large geographic air monitoring “hole” in the Sampson County area (the nearest air toxic monitoring station is in Wilmington, 34 miles southeast of Sampson County). By equipping residents with PurpleAir air sensors, CleanAIRE NC aims to fill in this gap and inform communities about pollution sources, ultimately increasing opportunities to advocate for cleaner air.
This project is an expansion of CleanAIRE NC’s statewide Citizen Science network, which was established in 2016 Charlotte’s Historic West End neighborhoods. The grant is among the $53 million recently announced by the Biden Administration to support 132 community air monitoring projects across the nation, the largest investment in community air monitoring in U.S. history.
CleanAIRE NC is a statewide nonprofit organization advocating for the health of all North Carolinians by pursuing equitable and collaborative solutions that address climate change and air pollution. Learn more at www.cleanAIREnc.org