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Efforts to track greenhouse gases could help improve air quality in Granite City

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio
Granite City has historically experienced poor air quality due to local industry.

For years, Granite City had some of the worst air quality in Illinois. But a new effort to track greenhouse gases could help reduce the city’s air pollution and improve public health.

For 18 months, Washington University researchers tracked levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from Granite City municipal operations. The area has historically dealt with high levels of particulate matter pollution, largely from the local U.S. Steel plant. The plant idled temporarily at the end of 2015 but began operating again this year.

The American Geophysical Union contacted Wash U researchers on the city's behalf. The new project could help show that air quality is no longer an issue for the area, said James Amos, Granite City’s economic development director.

“We really believe that’s not the case any longer and we want to be able to demonstrate that to others outside of our community,” Amos said.

Wash U environmental engineering professor Jay Turner used 2015 data on Granite City’s greenhouse gases compiled by his students to recommend changes that can lower the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. For example, he suggested installing energy efficient bulbs inside street lamps.

A sign for Granite City, Illinois.
Credit Provided by Granite City.
A sign for Granite City, Illinois.

“If they’re more energy efficient, they might save you money and emissions, if you can identify those measures,” Turner said.

The greenhouse gas inventory is a part of a larger plan to adopt more environmentally friendly practices in Granite City. The plan would initially be applied to municipal operations and may be expanded to regularly measure and take action on emissions from residential and industrial sources.

The City Council will vote on the sustainability plan on July 11.

Follow Eli on Twitter:@storiesbyeli

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.