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Analyzing Air Quality and Establishing Baseline Air Monitoring

Belmont County, Ohio

Featured image for the project, Analyzing Air Quality and Establishing Baseline Air Monitoring

Photo Courtesy of Leatra Harper


5 November 2020: Making the Invisible Visible: What you don’t see can hurt you (first webinar)


11 November 2020: Making the Invisible Visible: What you don’t see can hurt you (second webinar). A coalition of community advocates and air quality and health scientists present Making the Invisible Visible, an informational webinar on the inadequate regulation of Ohio’s fracking-related air pollution, specifically focusing on Belmont County and the site of the proposed PTTG ethane cracker plant. The slides can be found here.

1 December 2020: A 1-minute presentation about this project prepared for the AGU Fall Meeting Roll Call

3 December 2020: Community Science in Ohio – Science Policy Starts At Home Session – AGU Fall Meeting 2020

11 December 2020: Making the Invisible Visible. A 15-minute presentation about community science for environmental monitoring in the Ohio River Valley. This talk will be presented at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall 2020 meeting.

25 May 2022: Results from the project were published in Environmental Research Letters and Columbia University issued a press release.


The Concerned Ohio River Residents community group is concerned about the potential for contamination from a proposed Ethane “cracker” plant in Belmont County on the Ohio River. The primary concerns are around Nitrous Oxides, CO2, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) that the plant would emit.

Because of all the unconventional shale drilling (fracking) and associated waste facilities (injection wells) being permitted in Belmont County, the proposal to build a huge ethane cracker plant in the region is likely to put the county into a state of non-compliance with Ohio EPA standards. There is a growing awareness in the region of the public health effects of fracking.

There is an immediate need for baseline monitoring around the proposed plant and an interest to get a cumulative look at particulate matter, VOCs, and greenhouse gases from plants with air permits in current operation. The expected emissions from the new plant would be overlaid with the existing information to understand the larger impact to communities in the vicinity.


Related and background information

12/2/2020 WTOV9 article about another community facing similar issues: “Salem Township residents now have tool to monitor emissions

Project Team

Community Leads

Beverly Reed and Barbara Mew are longtime residents of Belmont County, and leaders in the community’s activism with the Concerned Ohio River Residents. Bev Reed has been financially supported by nonprofit organizations in her role in Concerned Ohio River Residents (Sierra Club initially, and Freshwater Accountability Project as of October. They serve in the local organizing, community outreach and volunteer recruitment capacities, and will be leading the local instrument installation and maintenance efforts.

Leatra Harper is a community activist working with the FreshWater Accountability Projec. She serves as an advisor on this project, and has been a previous community lead on the Cambridge, OH Thriving Earth Exchange project.


Community Scientist [Part A]

Lyssa Freese is a PhD student in Atmospheric Science at MIT’s Earth, Atmosphere and Planetary Science Department. She researches the intersection of atmospheric chemistry, climate, international energy policy, and health outcomes. Prior to joining EAPS, she worked Rock Environment and Energy Initiative in Beijing, and the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. She graduated in 2016 from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service with a degree in Science, Technology, and International Affairs.


Community Science Fellow

Garima Raheja is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a BA Data Science and a BS Civil and Environmental Engineering. Working at the nexus of science and environmental justice, Garima hopes to empower communities with the tools to make change. She currently works at the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens in Kahului, Hawaii, serving as a seed bank manager helping preserve native endangered species, and serves as a US State Department Air Pollution Fellow and on the AGU Art and Science Community Leadership Team, and has previously worked for NASA, NOAA, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and as the President of the Bay Area Environmentally Aware Consulting Network. In Fall 2020, Garima will begin her PhD at Columbia University, focusing on low-cost solutions for environmental monitoring. 

Scientist Wanted

Bev and Barbara would like help understanding the current state of air pollution in the region, and developing strategies to monitor the air as industrial emissions rise, in order to understand the status of their regional conditions and its impact on community health. Thus, the community leads seek to do this project in two phases as outlined below:

Part A: We would like to be able to take all the air permits and study the cumulative effects of small particulate matter, VOC’s and greenhouse gas emissions that have been already approved in the region, and overlay that with the expected emissions from the ethane cracker plant. [Role FILLED.]

Part B: There is an immediate need to do baseline monitoring above and below prevailing winds of the proposed ethane cracker plant. We are working already with other organizations such as Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project to conduct a baseline Health Impact Assessment as well as to develop a protocol to do baseline air monitoring in the region, and we have purchased Purple Air sensors. We are looking for a scientist to advise on setting up, maintaining, and analyzing Purple Air sensor networks, as well as VOCs and greenhouse gasses. [Approximate time: 14-16 months, starting April/May 2020]

Thriving Earth Exchange asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact that they can contribute to as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators. This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage.

In the case of this project, a proposal for external funding for air monitoring equipment  has been submitted, and is awaiting approval. 


Timeline and Outcomes

  • Funding approval – March 2020
  • Role (A) – Start March 2020 on analysis current landscape of available data, participate for 2-4 months [Approximate time: 2-4 months, starting March 2020] [Role FILLED]
  • Role (B) – Understand the current network of air monitors and plan for locations of new monitors. Investigate various low-cost monitors and choose optimal sensors. Collaborating with local leaders to install and maintain sensor networks. Must be located within < 3 hour travel distance of Belmont County, Ohio and willing to meet community leaders in person as needed. Must be able to attend video project meetings during ET daytime on weekdays. [Approximate time: 14-16 months, starting April 2020 or ASAP]


Desired Skills and Expertise

Desired skills and qualifications in both scientists:

  • 5-10 hours/month commitment, including weekly project calls, independent analysis/investigation work, and possible in-person meetings and collaborations
  • Demonstrated experience and/or interest in community-based science
  • Demonstrated experience and/or interest in citizen science
  • Experience and/or desire to participate in community education, outreach and engagement
  • Strong listening and collaboration skills
  • Competent and open to new ideas
  • Relaxed, easy going personality with a good sense of humor
  • The scientist should be able to join video calls (including audio / video / remote collaboration on documents) regularly 

Desired skills for Scientist for Part A: 

  • Experience with air quality analysis
  • Data analysis and visual presentation, and clear communication of scientific results for diverse audience types

Desired skills for Scientist for Part B: 

  • Experience with sensor networks – preferably low cost – including planning, setup, maintenance, and troubleshooting
  • Communication with sales agents, negotiation, and product specification analysis
  •  Experience applying systems thinking and developing frameworks
  • The scientist should be able to visit the community in-person if interested in Part B as described above