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TCEQ spearheads partnership collecting air quality data from Ciudad Juárez

Nov. 27, 2017 – Factors that affect air quality know no borders. That’s why it is so important that Ciudad Juárez officials are now operating and maintaining air quality monitors across the border from El Paso. Data for the past three months indicate that air quality for ozone and carbon monoxide are at levels protecting public health and the environment--comparable to air quality in El Paso.

“These monitors took us from ‘no data’ to ‘good data’ coming out of Juárez. It’s a great step in gathering data that we haven’t had for three years. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality uses these data to design effective control strategies for El Paso air quality,” says Stephen M. Niemeyer, P.E., TCEQ’s Border Affairs manager. “The air quality monitors support Juárez’s vehicle emissions testing program, which shows that the emissions levels are going down. They also fulfill the goal of implementing an air quality monitoring system as outlined in their ProAire Exit the TCEQ long-term plan for air quality monitoring.”

In 2014, the TCEQ began a binational collaboration, at the request of Mexican officials. The TCEQ worked with the Juárez Dirección de Ecología (Ciudad Juárez Ecology Department) Exit the TCEQ; EPA; and local, state, and federal agencies in Mexico, by providing technical and financial support, to restore a network of monitors that had fallen into disrepair. This network is designed to collect continuous real-time data on the air quality in Juárez as it relates to ozone and carbon monoxide.

As part of this effort, assessments and calibrations were made to three continuous air monitors located in Juárez. Within the past year, monitoring sites were upgraded and equipment that had sat idle was placed back online. As of August 2017, the three monitors began collecting data. This initial three-month data batch is currently being audited and subsequent data will continue to be audited every three months to verify accuracy. Before coming online, the Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales Exit the TCEQ (Mexico’s environment ministry) performed an on-site audit of the three stations and will independently audit the data and share their analysis with the TCEQ.

The collaborative spirit seems to be spreading. Within the past few weeks project coordinators at the TCEQ have been contacted by representatives from the New Mexico Environmental Department expressing an interest in being part of the partnership. As part of their participation in the project, NMED has offered to donate surplus equipment for use at the monitoring stations in Juárez. In addition, members of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo tribal communities will work with technicians in Juárez to operate and monitor the data logging sites, which will help meet EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s call to improve relations with tribal leaders.

Because of all this hard work and binational collaboration, air quality in the shared air basin will be improved.