Hi All - does anyone have any experience with air quality monitoring, particularly for the types of pollutants being produced by oil/gas refineries. We have this semi-regular thing happening in our neighborhood where there is a strong sulfur odor. I suspect it's from one of the area plants.
What I am interested to do is to set up - DIY style - a routine outdoor air quality monitor, that can help better understand the types of pollutants in the air - particularly the type that come from a refinery. If it could post stats similar to the particulate sensors like PurpleAir.
From @ottinger on the air quality list "Unfortunately, to my knowledge there are few sensors comparable to the Purple Air for oil refinery pollution--specifically, sensors that can produce readings for toxic gases (e.g. hydrogen sulfide, which is of concern around refineries) in real time.
In Benicia, CA, we experimented some with the AWAIR (about a $200 instrument) but that only reads total VOCs, not individual gases. We also found it more difficult to access data than with the Purple Air (no API) and hard to keep online. (folks in Pittsburgh have more extensive experience with these, and have also found that the absolute values creep up over time)
I believe some of my colleagues in Northern CA are investigating the possibility of using OPSIS systems for this purpose, but I don't know how expensive they are or how amenable to a DIY approach.
The best instrument I know of for this purpose is the UV Hound by Argos Scientific. They monitor the toxic gases of concern around oil refineries, in real time, at reasonably low detection limits, and they aren't terribly hard to use--you have to be able to calibrate them and manage the data upload to a laptop, but there are no moving parts to the monitor itself. They aren't cheap (a couple thousand dollars, I think), so you couldn't spread them throughout a neighborhood, but they are portable, and I'm almost certain that you could rent one for a while for less, if it would be helpful to do a study of a limited duration.
If you were willing to take samples instead, there are additional strategies you could use, especially the "bucket" air sampler.
Hope that helps!"
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I spoke with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment District office in Sarnia today. Sarnia is the middle of the chemical valley and refineries in Canada are surprisingly not as tightly regulated as in the US (so the levels are on average higher). I thought they might have some particular insight into this issue. Here are the handheld monitors that they use:
Thanks for the comments all. They were super helpful! I wanted to share some helpful links I found for the current state-funded air quality monitoring for Louisiana too. In theory, I should be able to check the realtime reading at the link below for SO2 next time I smell sulfur.