The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is significantly enhancing its air monitoring capabilities, thanks to new equipment funded by the Texas Legislature and savings from the agency’s 2019 budget.
“TCEQ is continuously looking for ways to improve public access to air quality information, particularly during emergencies,” says Chairman Jon Niermann. “This new monitoring equipment enables TCEQ to raise the bar again by allowing a more complete and timely view of air quality, which is critical during an emergency response.”
The Texas Legislature allowed the agency to equip up to three vehicles with real-time, mobile air monitoring technology, while budget savings allow for the installation of three new automated gas chromatograph (autoGC) air monitoring stations in the Houston area and the purchase of new handheld air monitors that can make specific benzene readings.
“This new equipment will expand TCEQ’s ability to rapidly assess air quality, particularly around petrochemical facilities, but it will also help with daily monitoring of ambient conditions, including the Houston ship channel area,” adds TCEQ Executive Director Toby Baker. “We want to get better at responding to natural disasters and emergency response events by upgrading our real-time monitoring capabilities so local officials are able to make the best possible decisions to protect public health. But we also want to better monitor the ambient air around the ship channel daily through the addition of three new autoGC air monitoring stations.”
The agency also was able to purchase 15 handheld air monitors capable of assessing cumulative volatile organic compounds and providing benzene-specific readings down to 10 parts per billion. Associated hardware and software will provide investigators the ability to report data directly from the field through real-time uploading. This new technology represents a substantial upgrade in equipment, especially for use in future emergency response activities. The handheld air monitors, called UltraRAEs, have been distributed to TCEQ’s Amarillo, Dallas/Fort Worth, Tyler, El Paso, Midland, Beaumont, Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Harlingen, and Laredo regional offices, as well as to TCEQ’s Monitoring Division in Austin.