From late October 2013 to early June 2015, the Citizen Sense research project collaborated with residents of northeastern Pennsylvania to develop a citizen-led air-quality monitoring project. Residents in this area were particularly concerned about the relative lack of environmental regulation and monitoring in relation to growing hydraulic fracturing activities, and had already begun to undertake community activities for monitoring environmental pollutants.
Citizen Sense worked with local residents to develop a monitoring kit that included Speck PM2.5 sensors, BTEX badges (for monitoring benzene toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, volatile organic compounds commonly associated with petroleum-related activities), a community platform for mapping monitoring locations and viewing real-time and historic data, and a Frackbox, which monitored nitrogen oxides, ozone, volatile organic compounds, temperature, humidity and wind direction. Residents were also provided with a logbook of instructions, which suggested several options for recording observations of environmental conditions and health effects.
The Citizen Sense kit and monitors were distributed in October 2014 during a monitoring workshop and walk. In total, 30 monitors and kits were distributed to residents, and 3 Frackboxes were placed near infrastructure. The monitoring period ran for over 7 months, until June 2015. During peak monitoring activity, there were 23 active monitoring sites, and there was consistent monitoring taking place at up to 16 sites over a period of 7 months.
The data stories are generated using the Citizen Sense Airsift PM2.5 Data Analysis Toolkit, which was developed to allow for citizen-led interpretation of datasets. The core data available for interpretation is the PM2.5 Speck sensor data. The Airsift Frackbox Data Toolkit is also available through the kits section of our website. The toolkits use and adapts the open source software, openair, developed by atmospheric scientists for the analysis of air pollution data. The monitoring locations have been labeled with township locations in order to blur the exact monitoring locations.
The 5 data stories we have developed demonstrate the different patterns that have emerged from the data. Our hope is that the stories and the toolkits will provide a method and guide for others to undertake their own analysis of this citizen-gathered dataset, and to contribute to the wider development of citizen-led environmental monitoring and data analysis tools and practices.