HAMMOND | A local environmental justice group and a California-based organization gathered Tuesday to teach residents living near BP's Whiting Refinery how to read air quality monitors to be installed there next year.
Denny Larson, executive director of Global Community Monitor in El Cerrito, Calif., led the seminar at the Hammond Public Library. The event was sponsored by the Hammond-based Calumet Project.
The Calumet Project was instrumental in reaching an agreement with BP last fall to expand air quality monitoring beyond federal regulations.
BP plans next year to install and operate an ultraviolet light system on the west side of the company's property at Schrage Avenue and on the southeast corner of the property near East Chicago's Marktown neighborhood.
"You've got the neighbors right there," Larson said of the fence line monitors.
The system will monitor air pollutants surrounding more than 1,000 feet of the company's fence line including benzene, toluene, xylene, ozone, carbon disulfide and sulfur dioxide.
The system is expected to show the direction of prevailing winds and pollutant levels both upwind and downwind to show what, if anything, is dispersed as air passes through the refinery.
"In most cases, you will see what the air quality is before the wind hits BP refinery and what it is after it passes the refinery," Larson said.
The monitors will be used in conjunction with stationary monitors in the neighborhoods acquired through another settlement agreement with BP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
"By combining both, you have a better chance of really catching any dangerous emissions," Larson said.
Global Community Monitor negotiated several other fence line monitors and corresponding websites at industries across the country that operate in a similar fashion.
"We hope that (BP's system) will be very similar," Larson said. "... We look at this agreement as a work in progress."
Tom Keilman, spokesman for BP, agreed.
"We've had good, open dialogue with the Calumet Project over this issue," Keilman said.
Keilman said BP is "in the developmental stages of putting the monitors in place."