Friday, November 18, 2011
Funding Shortfall to End 19-Year Atmospheric Pollution Monitoring at Mt. Mansfield
Vermont is on the verge of suspending AIRMoN, one of its long-term and important precipitation monitoring programs that has been ongoing at Underhill for 19 years. The Atmospheric Integrated Research Monitoring Network (AIRMoN), which has continuously operated at Underhill since 1993, measures the concentration and deposition of Ca, Mg, K, Na, NH4, NO3, CL, SO4 and PO4 and precipitation pH from individual storm events. The annual cost for this program is just over $24,000.
Measuring precipitation chemistry and pH from individual storms allows scientists to determine starting locations and thus “sources” pollution, many of which are transported to Vermont from other locations. Data on chemistry from individual storms is very important to human and ecological health. For example, chemistry data from Underhill was used as evidence in a recent lawsuit brought by the EPA and several northeastern states, including Vermont, against the owner of 16 out-of-state power plants. The company was charged with expanding the capacity of these older power plants without installing scrubbers and other pollution control technologies as required by law. The plant’s owner agreed to spend 4.6 billion dollars on additional pollution control measures for these plants to settle that lawsuit.
Through the efforts of Senator Leahy, funding for AIRMoN has historically come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the Lake Champlain Research Consortium (LCRC) via the annual Congressional budgeting process. Federal funds are now scarce and they have been told not to expect any specific funding for this program in FY 2012.
The VMC continued to fund the AIRMoN program at Underhill in FY 2011 through the combination of a one-time grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program and direct funding from the VMC; funding for both programs also secured by Senator Leahy. Unfortunately, the VMC has not identified any funding for FY 2012 or beyond to cover the $24,382 in annual costs for chemical analyses for the event-based AIRMoN precipitation monitoring at Underhill. Without additional funding or the promise of funding they will be forced to suspend operation of AIRMoN at Underhill on December 31, 2011.