Groups awarded grant to monitor air, water pollution

From Local Sources

DALE — Two southwestern Indiana environmental health advocacy groups have been awarded a grant for regional monitoring of toxic and fine particle air pollution as well as some water pollution.

Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life, based in Dale, and Valley Watch Inc. of Evansville were awarded $191,450 to purchase three toxic air monitors, which monitor emissions from any source in real time, and 50 fine particle monitors that are both portable and stationary. Each report can result in near real time to the internet so the public can access the data. A limited number of water testing kits will also be purchased and used as needed to assess tap water quality.

The grant is from the American Electric Power Mitigation Money Fund, a fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, under a legal settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, eight states, and 13 citizen groups. The settlement included an agreement by AEP to invest $3.5 million to improve air quality and to reduce pollution in Indiana through various projects. The AEP settlement money is being overseen by an oversight committee that includes Citizens Action Coalition, Clean Air Council, and Indiana Wildlife Federation, with the Sierra Club as a non-voting member and Environmental Law & Policy Center as a non-voting legal advisor and facilitator.

Currently, SWICQL and Valley Watch are challenging an air quality permit that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management issued in 2019 to Riverview Energy to construct a coal-to-diesel refinery in Dale. SWICQL formed in 2018 in response to the coal-to-diesel refinery proposal while Valley Watch has operated to protect the public health and environment of the lower Ohio River valley since 1981.

“We hope to bring our fights against pollution in our communities to the next level," said SWICQL President Mary Hess. "We look forward to providing to Southern Indiana what IDEM has failed to do in providing state-of-the-art monitors. We hope the data will give us the ability to force regulators to enforce air and water quality in our communities and state.”

Valley Watch President John Blair added: “Now, we will be able to determine what is coming out of industrial facilities that impacts our health and share it with the world. No longer will we have to rely on less than motivated agencies of government to collect data. Air monitors are awfully expensive and absent the grant, we would never have been able to do this kind of reference monitoring.”

In addition to the above uses, SWICQL and Valley Watch have decided to make the monitors available to local fire departments in emergencies to determine toxins that may arise from certain fires. The monitors will also be available to county health departments, as needed, to keep pollution in check. Interested parties can contact John Blair at 812-464-5663 for more information.

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