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South Dakotans Try DIY Air Quality Testing

November 20, 2009

ELD POINT, SD - Air monitoring is set to begin this weekend near the proposed Hyperion oil refinery in Union County, and local residents who oppose the project will be the ones conducting the tests. The so-called "bucket brigade" program will train about a dozen community members to take scientifically accurate air samples using EPA-approved five-gallon, air-tight bucket sample systems.

Ed Cable, spokesman for the group Save Union County, organized the do-it-yourself air quality test because he was disatisfied with what he calls the lack of results from state air quality stations in the area. He says the State of South Dakota has been testing air quality for a nearly a year, but has yet to release any results - so his group is going to do it themselves.

"We want to establish our own baseline of air qualities if they'll not do it; and we'll do it in such a way that we have more than just the five or six they will test. We'll have a much more complete background independently tested."

Volunteers will be trained tomorrow, adds Cable.

"We actually do the field testing portion of the work ourselves, and that's what this Saturday's training session is for; it's to train us so we know how to do it properly without contaminating the samples. They will then be sent off to a testing laboratory."

This round of citizen testing will establish a baseline for air quality at the location, against which Cable's group can compare future test results after the refinery is in operation. Cable adds he is most disappointed the state will not be testing for benzene, which is one of the toxins most likely to be emitted from such a facility, he says.

When complete, the Hyperion Energy Center will be one of the most environmentally friendly in the world, according to the company, which adds the citizen-gathered data could help prove that. It will also be the first refinery constructed in the United States in more than 30 years, employing approximately 1,800 people.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - SD