The Recorder – With 10 air sensors, Greenfield to participate in air quality study

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GREENFIELD — The city will be among 39 communities to receive air sensors for measuring levels of fine particulate matters (PM2.5), an air pollutant that can cause health issues like asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

“We were awarded 10 ‘PurpleAir’ sensors,” Health Director Jennifer Hoffman told the Board of Health on Wednesday evening. “We’re waiting delivery.”

Hoffman explained that the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts is doing a study from Longmeadow to Greenfield, measuring PM2.5 to determine the different levels depending on season and wind direction.

The Health Department, she said, has identified five sites to place the air sensors, and is currently working with the Department of Public Works and Information Technology (IT) on hook-ups.

“The data is livestreamed to PurpleAir, so we need a WiFi source and an electrical source,” she explained.

Although not all locations have been determined, Hoffman said the plan is to install one sensor as a “control” in an area where there is no industry, while others will be placed somewhere on Wells Street and at Greenfield Community College, and possibly on Deerfield Street or Montague City Road.

“We’re trying to get different areas and different types of industry or traffic, and different economic profiles of Greenfield to see if these levels are different,” Hoffman said.

The Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts is also providing the city with an ozone detector to determine levels of ozone in the area. This detector will be permanently placed, she noted.

Hoffman said the study will help to determine if PM2.5 is contributing to certain cardiopulmonary disease, or increasing asthma, especially in “economically depressed areas of Greenfield.”

According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which used $81,468 in grant funding to purchase the air sensors, measurements will be taken for a period of one year.

“Particulate matter can be a significant airborne pollutant that affects the public health in communities throughout the state,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said in a statement. “By providing air sensors to municipalities to measure their air quality, our Air Sensor Grant Program highlights the commonwealth’s dedication to working directly with local communities, to effectively assess and improve air quality across the state.”

Other grants in the works

Hoffman also told Board of Health members Wednesday that she’s in the process of writing the quarterly assessment of the COVID-19 contact tracing grant the city is collaborating on with Deerfield, Montague and Sunderland.

“That’s been a really good project,” Hoffman said. “Besides working with the nurses and bringing our communities together, it’s been really, really wonderful — so much so, we’re jumping off on that and I’m working with (the University of Massachusetts Amherst), with a professor there … looking at isolation and seniors, and we’re going to be doing a study on that.”

She noted that while this project is related to COVID-19, the state is determining if COVID-19 case counts drop to a certain level, whether communities can use the two-year grant for other public health education purposes.

And finally, Hoffman said she’s in the interview process for the Better Together grant through Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

With the grant, Hoffman plans to create a medical respite program to support patients who are discharged from the hospital and who are either homeless or in an unstable housing situation, leaving them with nowhere to go.

“It’s a significant grant,” she said.

The Health Department is collaborating with Clinical & Support Options (CSO), the Continuum of Care Program and Behavioral Health Network (BHN).

“We’re going to be working together to have programs that will get people medically optimized, instead of putting them out on the street where they’re not fully medically optimized … and bring social service agencies to them,” Hoffman explained.

She also plans to work with the Community Health Center of Franklin County.

“I’m very excited,” she said, “and I feel that this program will help many, many people in Greenfield.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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