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Air monitor in Rock gauges storm impact

This graph shows concentrations of fine particulate matter in areas with supplemental air monitors and how those measurements relate to federal standards. Photo courtesy city Department of Environmental Protection
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The state and city have added an extra air monitor to the Rockaways to determine the impact of recovery efforts on outdoor air quality in the region since Hurricane Sandy hit, three agencies devoted to safeguarding health and the environment said last Thursday.

Despite the decision to add the monitor, however, air quality readings taken since the storm have been normal, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation and city Departments of Environmental Protection and of Health.

“From routine monitoring of outdoor air, we know that the city’s overall air quality since Hurricane Sandy has been typical for this time of year,” DOH Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.

But he cautioned that “essential cleanup and reconstruction work can produce additional street dust and emissions in communities most impacted by the storm.”

The monitor, which was installed last week near Holland Avenue and Beach 84th Street, will measure levels of dust, construction debris and gas exhaust in the air.

Other rooftop air monitors in a sttate network that is already in place have not shown higher concentrations of fine particle matter in the air since the storm, DEC said.

Real-time data from the monitors is available on the DEC website at dec.ny.gov/airmon. DEC said it will continue to monitor the data to determine whether further action is needed.

DEP is also monitoring asbestos in construction debris at Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways, which is being used as a temporary collection area for refuse from the storm. DEP said most samples did not return evidence of asbestos, and those samples that did detect fibers found levels were far below the level of dangerous health readings.

But DOH cautioned that there might still be indoor hazards from dust and mold in storm-damaged houses and apartments. It urged residents to wear N95 dust masks when cleaning their homes and provided cleanup tips on its website.

Concerns had mounted about air quality after Sandy, with some complaining they were suffering from an ailment called the “Sandy Cough.”

State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) earlier this month had called on the DEP and DOH to conduct daily tests on air quality for safety. He said he lives in the Rockaways and felt passionate about testing the air because he was raising his two children in the area.

“I personally want to feel more comfortable” about the air quality, he said at the time. “If I feel that, all my constituents feel that.”

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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