Air monitoring begins at Diboll school

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

DIBOLL, TX (KTRE) - Atop the Temple Elementary roof, air quality specialists plot the perfect spot for an air monitoring system. "We picked this spot because it is down wind with (from)  the prevailing winds of our source and also being on the roof here we're free of obstructions," Mark Adair, an electronics technician with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) explained.

The installation is a follow up to a nationally circulated news article. Its interpretation of a computer model stated air pollution around Diboll schools is among the worst in the nation. TCEQ and the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), working in partnership with one another, disagree. "The TCEQ, we know of no schools in Texas where safe emission levels are being exceeded," Heather Ross, TCEQ manager, Air Program, stated.

There is a potential for risk. Industry is as close as across the street. The EPA asked TCEQ to install the monitor at six Texas schools, including Diboll. Another 56 schools across the nation were also selected.

The level of chemicals in the air will be analyzed over the next 60-90 days. The air samples will be picked up every six days. "What happens over a 24 hour period, this will fill up with air from the area," Adair explained while holding a metal canister.  "And then we'll ship it off to a lab and have it further analyzed to see what is exactly in that air."

"If there are some types of concerns or elevated concerns that are noted that we can pin point and (we'll) conduct further and more detailed investigations," Ross explained.

The school superintendent is certain the tests will reveal the air around diboll schools is just fine. "We've got great industry around here that takes care of their town and their children," Gary Martel said.

Diboll is a company town. Temple Inland's paper and lumber mills are located throughout the small town.

Temple Elementary much prefers being known for its record of academic excellence, than thought of as a school placing its children in harms way.

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