As a smart community, Chattanooga relies on data. Better, more granular data can result in better outcomes, especially when it comes to the environment.
In 2021, The Enterprise Center, the City of Chattanooga, EPB, CUIP, Hamilton County Schools and other local partners joined with Salt Lake City, Utah; Kansas City, Missouri; and Cleveland, Ohio on a collaborative US Ignite project, funded by the National Science Foundation. The project, begun by researchers at the University of Utah, is bringing a network of approximately 50 AirU PM 2.5 — or fine particulate matter — air quality sensors online, creating a live map of air quality conditions across the city for local researchers, citizen scientists, students and other curious residents to utilize.
The project began in effort to better understand the relationship between air pollution and incidence rates of COVID-19, as well improve our overall understanding of differences in air quality across the elevations, geographies and built-environments of our diverse neighborhoods. As Jim Starcev, of KC Digital Drive in Kansas City, noted in an interview about the project, “Pollution exceeds World Health Organization guidelines for 92 percent of the world population, resulting in 6.5 million deaths and $21 billion in health-care costs.”
High levels of these “fine particulates” have been shown to have adverse effects on health, and contribute to observable haziness in the air. Famously once called the “dirtiest city in America” by Walter Cronkite, Chattanooga has undergone a renaissance to become Outside Magazine’s “Best Town Ever” — with Smart City projects like real-time environmental monitoring a vital element in keeping our community not just an outdoor haven, but a safer, healthier place for every resident.
Across our community.
In addition to the EPA’s own monitors, as well as those already part of the MLK Smart City Test Bed and Corridor+, these sensors have been deployed at school and community center locations around Hamilton County. And because these sensors will continue to provide live data for years into the future, the opportunities to learn, engage community members and support the vital work of partners like the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau will continue to grow.