By Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Harris County Precinct 2
Commissioner Garcia has commenced a first-of-its-kind collaboration with the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) and industry leaders to strengthen the County’s ability to adeptly analyze air quality in the Precinct 2.
Last week, Commissioners Court approved a $200,000 allocation to HARC for their analysis and modelling of air quality data collected throughout Precinct 2. HARC will facilitate emergency response exercises and convene a panel of experts to review threshold values for certain pollutants and translate air monitoring data into information that area public health officials and citizens can easily understand and use to make decisions in the event of an unplanned significant air emissions event. This will bolster the ongoing analysis conducted by the County’s revamped Pollution Control department.
“This is a significant first step toward ensuring Harris County becomes a national model and leads the way in collaboration between industry, community organizations and government to promote a healthy and economically strong area. Together we can work to ensure our residents feel safe, engaged and educated about our industry neighbors,” said Commissioner Garcia
“This is a very exciting project for HARC,” said Dr. Mustapha Beydoun, HARC Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “We look forward to working with the project’s independent Science Advisory Panel and ACC, EHCMA, TCC, first responders, Harris County, other governmental entities, and all the partner community stakeholders and advocacy groups to help enhance Harris County’s and our region’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities. Protecting public health and safety is a paramount goal we all share.”
The funds were made available through a $1 million grant provided to Harris County last year from the American Chemistry Council Foundation, and its local partner organizations, the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA) and the Texas Chemical Council (TCC). The grant, announced in December of 2019, was the first of its kind the ACC Foundation developed and awarded a local government grant for a community air-monitoring network.
“ACC and our member companies would like to thank Commissioner Garcia for his leadership and his dedication to safety,” said Chris Jahn, President and Chief Executive Officer for the American Chemistry Council. “This air monitoring initiative is a good example of what can be accomplished when industry and local officials work together to achieve a common goal – improving environmental performance and taking care of their communities. Thanks to this new partnership, mayors and county officials will have greater access to timely air quality information they can use to help safeguard public health and the environment.”
The grant, which aims to enhance the availability, transparency and interpretation of air monitoring data, will also support the following initiatives:
“The American Chemistry Council and its members are committed to the health and safety of the communities in which we live and work,” said Mike Graff, Chairman and Chief Executive. Officer of American Air Liquide Holdings, Inc. and Chairman of ACC’s Board Responsible Care® Committee. “A great example of this is ACC’s partnership with Harris County, in collaboration with the Houston Advanced Research Center, for the implementation of new air monitoring equipment throughout the Houston Ship Channel area. This additional air monitoring equipment will further strengthen one of the strongest and most advanced networks in the nation. As a Houston-based company, Air Liquide is proud of these efforts and the positive impact it will have on the health and safety of our communities.”
In addition to the $1 million grant, the industry group is also proposing to provide Harris County with specific air monitor data that can help inform public health and safety decisions in the event of an incident.