TDEC cuts monitoring air in Loudon

Some residents upset; source of detected chemical unknown

Hugh G. Willett,

Some Loudon County residents are not pleased to learn that the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has recently ceased collecting certain data from air monitors in the county.

"I am very concerned that they would do this without notifying the community," said Loudon County resident and air quality activist Pat Hunter.

At a school board meeting Thursday night, Hunter asked the board to write a letter to the governor, TDEC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to request that monitoring continue. The Loudon County Commission also recently asked TDEC to continue the monitoring.

Loudon Air Quality Task Force chair Mike Crosby, in an e-mail dated Nov. 12, said he was disappointed to learn that TDEC ceased the data-collection effort in October. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

TDEC has in the past few years collected a wealth of data from the Loudon County monitors and produced a report on the air quality, according to Jackie Waynick, manager of technical services with TDEC. Only the air toxin monitoring will be discontinued, he said.

The news that toxin data will not be collected from the two monitors comes after a recent TDEC study on Loudon air quality found much higher than average levels of acrolein in the air. Crosby told the task force last month that levels of acrolein in the local atmosphere are about 40 times normal and reaching levels that the EPA considers harmful for long-term exposure.

Acrolein is a potentially deadly chemical created by burning different substances including wood, paper and gasoline, Crosby said. The EPA has identified high levels of acrolein as a problem nationwide.

Waynick said he is aware of the acrolein problem in Loudon County. Acrolein is a problem across the country, he said. The effort to solve the acrolein problem will continue even though the monitoring of data has ceased, he said.

One of the monitors is located at the Fort Loudon Middle School; the other is housed in a small white trailer located on the property of Loudon resident Jimmie Pope, a board member of the Breathing Clean Air Action Team."They need to continue to monitor the data until they find where the acrolein is coming from," Pope said.