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Cleveland kicks off CLEANinCLE community meetings to hear residents' air quality concerns

Chief of Air Pollution Outreach with Cleveland's Division of Air Quality Christina Yoka stands with a microphone answering a resident's question.
Zaria Johnson
Ideastream Public Media
Cleveland's Division of Air Quality Chief of Air Pollution Outreach Christina Yoka answers Collinwood resident Konni Nelson's question at the first in a series of CLEANinCLE public engagement meetings on Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

Cleveland residents met with city air quality officials in Collinwood Wednesday for the first in a series of workshops for the new CLEANinCLE project.

Cleveland’s Division of Air Quality is kicking off its Community Leveraged Expanded Air Network project. It will deploy 30 air quality sensorsto detect fine particulate matter which poses a risk to human health.

The goal of the workshop series is to hear residents’ air quality concerns and determine the best location for the sensors, Chief of Monitoring Bryan Sokolowski said.

"We need to know where in the trouble areas in the community," Sokolowski said. "We can strap these things to posts … to street lights. We can put them a number of different areas … All I need is location. So you tell me where the air is bad and I'll get a sensor there."

The sensors will be placed in locations eight-feet high, high enough to avoid being hit or tampered with, but low enough to still gather data on "breathing level," Sokolowski said.

Chief of Air Pollution Outreach Christina Yoka said the sensors will primarily be located in historically redlined communities where conditions like asthma are prevalent.

"There might be, at the national level, 8 to 10% of children have been diagnosed with asthma. Whereas in the city of Cleveland, we might have neighborhoods where there's 25%, youth have been diagnosed with asthma," Yoka said. "So why is that? The air quality is going to contribute to that."

One resident at Wednesday's meeting, Konni Nelson, said she has lived in Collinwood for nearly 50 years. She said she's noticed questionable air quality in the neighborhood before.

"Being near the railroad. We get all kinds of smell," she said. "Most people have their windows closed. I keep my windows closed all year round. The smell, I think mostly is coming from the railroad sites.

Others attendees, like Glenville resident Five Sankofa shared advice.

"I do encourage people to grow food because that is one of the best ways for you to create a better environment," she said, "not just with the air, but also with your soil, because what comes through the soil, also rises up and goes into the air."

The team will host its next two meetings this Saturday at the Tavern Coffee House at 10:30 a.m. in Buckeye-Shaker and Scranton Road Bible Church at 1 p.m. in Clark-Fulton. There's a fourth meeting scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the William E. Saunders Family Life Center in Lee-Miles.

Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.