Visit a Unique Air Monitoring Bench this Summer

By Ann Brown

Benjamin Franklin look a like at a park bench

A special visitor at the Village Green bench in Philadelphia.

What do a national zoo, library and national historic landmark have in common?  A Village Green air monitoring bench being tested by EPA researchers and made possible with the support of partners.

State and local partners are hosting a Village Green bench for a one-year research project and are instrumental to EPA’s study to advance air monitoring capabilities to communities. In April, EPA announced grants to partners to receive a Village Green bench and participate in the study.

The Village Green bench contains sophisticated air quality measurement equipment that provides real-time air quality measurements on two air pollutants – ozone and particle pollution – and weather conditions. The data is streamed to a website and can be obtained at the benches using a smart phone.

The partners are monitoring and maintaining the air monitoring systems and meeting regularly with scientists to discuss the project. The benches also provide an opportunity for partners to provide educational outreach on air quality and emerging air measurement technology.

I asked three partners who received the solar and wind-powered benches this spring to talk about their interest in getting a bench and participating in the Village Green Project.

Home of the birthplace of a nation
Alison Riley
Voluntary Programs Coordinator, Department of Public Health, Air Management Services

Philadelphia has long been a center for research and education, so it’s no surprise that Philadelphia’s newest air monitoring bench fits right in among our city’s storied historic and academic institutions. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Air Management Services, is partnering with the EPA and the U.S. National Park Service to operate and test a bench in Independence National Historical Park at 6th and Race Streets, just across from the Constitution Center. We think this is an ideal location since hundreds of people come to the park to see the Liberty Bell and other historical landmarks and learn about our nation’s birthplace. The bench will help visitors learn about the relationship between air quality, traffic, and weather.

A community gathering place
Douglas Watson
Meteorologist, Kansas Department of Health and Environment

The South Branch Library, a new library in Kansas City, Kan., provides an excellent location as it is a place where residents in the community gather. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, EPA and Unified School District 500 joined forces to bring this innovative research project to the community. The bench provides an opportunity for citizen scientists, students, community organizations and others to learn more about air quality and how events such as weather changes and air pollution can change local conditions.

A place that connects people and wildlife
Julia Robey Christian
Public Information Officer, District Department of the Environment

Visitors from around the country come to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. to see the world famous giant pandas, Asian elephants, tigers, and other spectacular wildlife. Now, while they are learning about those animals and their connection to the natural world they can also explore something they can’t see: air pollution. Thanks to a partnership between the District Department of the Environment and EPA, the Zoo is now home to one of these benches. The bench is enabling visitors to the Zoo to learn how clean air is important to a healthy environment for people and wildlife.

Be sure to check out one of these benches if you live in the community or plan a trip to one of these cities this year. You can visit two other air monitoring benches this summer in Oklahoma City, Okla. and Hartford, Conn. thanks to partnerships with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Stay tuned to learn more about these two benches, which will be installed in popular visitor locations in the communities.

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About the Author: Ann Brown is the communications lead for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research program.

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