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Environmentalists Teach Residents How to Monitor Air

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Citizens in Tonawanda and Cheektowaga are being encouraged to take air pollution samples. Several environmental coalitions will be hosting two separate training sessions this week.

Environmental groups will be teaching citizens how to conduct "bucket brigades" to monitor pollution from some major industries. Tuesday night at Mount Saint Mary's Academy on Delaware Avenue, citizens will learn how to take an air sample.

Jackie James -- co-founder of Toxic Tonawanda Coalition -- says the sample can be captured in a bag inside a five gallon bucket.

"There's a plastic bag inside the bucket," James explained. "When you smell a foul smell you can take an air sample through basically a vacuum system. It pulls it into the plastic bag, then you seal it and Federal Express it to a certified EPA lab in California."

James says the air sample will then be tested for 80-different types of toxins. The buckets cost about 75-dollars. They are a cheaper version of a $2,000 canister used by the government and industry to conduct tests. The bucket brigades were started by the attorney representing Erin Brockovich in 1995 to test for fumes from a petroleum refinery plant in California.

James says she will take air samples near the 3-M O-Cel-O Plant on Sawyer Avenue in Tonawanda.

"Our main concern is a cancer surveillance study that has been conducted. It has been determined that cancers are extremely high in the Tonawanda, Riverside and Kenmore area," James said. "For example, thyroid cancer is higher than the state average and we are trying to find out why."

The Global Community Monitor will be in Kenmore Tuesday night to facilitate the "bucket brigade" training. Wednesday night they will hold a training session in Cheektowaga at the Resurrection School on Como Park Blvd. James says monitoring air quality empowers the ommunity to hold government and industry accountable for the impact of pollution.