Our community’s air quality is a concern for residents affected by the Bristol VA Landfill. Please read on to learn about our efforts to monitor and understand the landfill’s impact on air quality in our neighborhoods.
If you’d like to support our Air Monitoring Initiative, we have an online donation portal at https://hopeforbristol.org/give/. Additionally, checks made out to “HOPE for Bristol” can be mailed to HOPE for Bristol, P.O. Box 2154, Bristol, TN 37621. Just add a note to let us know that your donation is for air monitoring! Air monitoring equipment purchases and rentals are an expensive undertaking, and your support is so appreciated.
Purple Air Monitoring Network
HOPE for Bristol maintains a Purple Air Monitoring network throughout the Bristol VA Landfill community. This effort could not have been accomplished without the donation of Purple Air monitors by partner organizations and local residents. Additionally, we are grateful for the residents who installed their own Purple Air Monitors to create an expansive “grass-roots” network of monitors in the Bristol VA / Bristol TN community.
Two features are especially helpful to watch on the Purple Air Map. First is the EPA PM2.5 AQI, which is an air quality index based on particulate matter. This value is calculated based on measurements made by laser counters in the Purple Air Monitor. Second is the Experimental VOC reading, which is measured using a special BME-680 sensor. These numbers are less exact, and occasionally we have encountered a chip that doesn’t seem to pick up VOC readings. However, we have noticed that on “bad” landfill nights these Experimental VOC readings rise quickly, with a sharp increase beginning closer to the landfill and moving outward. This is sometimes a predictor of a rough night of landfill emissions in low-lying neighborhoods.
Clicking on either map will take you to real-time readings. If you click on the real-time circles on Purple Air’s maps, you can view graphs of recent air quality readings for each monitor.
2023 Special Air Monitoring Project
In December 2022, residents were alarmed by an increase in the intensity of emissions from the Bristol VA Landfill. In addition to significant weather inversions at night, the drilling of thermocouple boreholes in the landfill appeared to be causing daytime “plumes” of landfill gases to invade our community. Burning eyes and skin, coughing, and other symptoms were reported by residents who were exposed to daytime plumes and/or nighttime inversion of these landfill emissions.
At the same time, we learned that no further air testing was planned by either the EPA or Virginia DEQ. Even worse, we learned that no special air monitoring was planned by Bristol VA or their landfill consultants for the upcoming site remedial work. If an adverse event or substantial airborne release were to occur during drilling, no monitors would be in place to sound the alarm and document the level of chemicals being released.
We at HOPE for Bristol felt that this situation was completely unacceptable. So did many in the community. In January 2023 we began a fundraising initiative to be able to rent basic air monitoring equipment. This effort involved many hours on our part to choose the most affordable but functional equipment, targeting the chemicals of highest concern.
Residents felt the importance of this project and worked hard to help us raise over $2500 for a one-month rental of air monitoring equipment. We were able to rent two handhelds for monitoring several gases + total VOCs, as well as a specialized option for sulfur compounds. Our hope is to continue rental of at least one of the handhelds while we explore additional long-term monitoring options. If you’d like to help us continue our Air Monitoring Initiative, we’d be grateful for your support through our “Donate” page.
Please stay tuned for updates on this project, including any significant findings from our ongoing air monitoring.