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Air quality monitoring efforts continue in Commerce City

For nearly a year, Cultivando, with the help of Boulder A.I.R., has been tracking air quality in Commerce City through air monitoring sites.

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Enrique Perez is used to the noise next to his Commerce City home -- his trucking company is based out of a lot right on his property. But he recently had a new vehicle arrive.

“Hope that it helps our family – not just our family – but other families that live around the community," he said.

He's talking about the air monitoring technology that hangs above his backyard. 

The Adams County-based environmental justice advocacy nonprofit Cultivando facilitated the move of the technology to his yard, which Perez welcomed. 

“Once they told me what they were trying to do, I thought that was a good cause," Perez, who has lived in Commerce City for more than 20 years, said. 

It's part of a year-long project aimed at tracking air quality in Commerce City, Globeville and Elyria-Swansea.

“Air quality is different from everywhere else. You could always smell when you’re in Commerce City," Perez said.

Credit: Mark Zoleta
An air monitor site sits on the edge of Enrique Perez's property in Commerce City.

The project specifically looks to track the air quality near the Suncor refinery in Commerce City.

"This issue matters because it's affecting the lives and the health of our families and our children," said Olga Gonzalez, the Executive Director of Cultivando.

The project is funded by Suncor with money from their $9 million settlement with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment over air pollution violations. 

RELATED: Suncor and third-party nonprofit both monitoring air quality in Commerce City neighborhood

Last summer, Suncor began its own air quality monitoring operation after hiring the third-party company Montrose Air Quality Services. 

As of Saturday night, a spokesperson for the refinery had not responded to a 9NEWS request for comment on this story. 

Credit: Luis de Leon
Enrique Perez stands in his trucking company's lot. One of Cultivando's air monitoring sites currently sits on the edge of his property.

Boulder A.I.R. has been helping Cultivando with their findings.

A progress report was published in late August that tracked the air monitoring stations' findings up to June.

According to notes about the findings provided by Gonzalez, the National Air Quality Standard for ozone was exceeded at the Commerce City monitoring site nine times in that time period. 

Also on the long list of findings: the monitoring sites in Commerce City are measuring and reporting the highest number of pollutants of any monitoring station in the state.

While the monitoring sites are placed not far from the Suncor refinery, 9NEWS cannot independently confirm the air quality levels are specifically tied to Suncor. 

However, Gonzalez believes this all points to a larger issue.

"It matters because this is a clear case of environmental racism, and let's call it what it is," she said. "This would not happen in more affluent communities. This would not happen in predominantly white communities. And because our community is primarily composed of people who make lower wages, who perhaps don't speak English as a first language, who might be immigrants, I see clearly that these issues have been ignored for far too long."

Wilma Subra, Technical Director at the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, has been working with Cultivando to better educate the community on what pollutants people may be exposed to and the impacts behind them.

"Coughing, breathing, asthma attacks. When the concentrations go up, you also have the chemical impact. It's not just one chemical that goes up. It's a whole host of other chemicals that increase in the concentration in the air," she said. 

RELATED: Commerce City mother details what it is like living in a polluted neighborhood


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