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September 2009

Release Date: Sept. 2, 2009ASU Logo

New ASU Station to Monitor Local Air Quality

Angelo State University has installed a new RadNet station and is now part of a nationwide network that monitors environmental radiation and overall air quality for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The ASU RadNet station will be run by the Physics Department and is located in the Facilities Management compound on the east side of campus. It houses air sampling units that communicate in real time with the EPA lab in Montgomery, Ala.

“Basically, it is an aluminum box that fits on a 4-feet-by-4-feet concrete pad,” said Dr. Andy Wallace, Physics Department head. “It has a tube that sticks up and pulls air in for 24 hours. It does a count and sends the information to the EPA via satellite. That information pertains to the radioactive isotopes that are naturally in the environment and/or the ones that you pick up that shouldn’t be there.”

Air filters from the station are also removed twice a week, sealed and sent to the EPA lab in Alabama, where technicians measure the particulate matter trapped in the filters for air quality monitoring.

A secondary benefit of having the new station is the availability of state-of-the-art monitoring and measuring equipment that ASU physics, Earth science and chemistry students can use for undergraduate and graduate research projects.

“There are beta and gamma spectrometers that are such high quality, we just don’t have them,” Wallace said. “They are so expensive that, for us to get them, we would probably have to get an external grant. Students will now get to use equipment that we otherwise would not have and that could be a foot in the door when they go to look for jobs.”

The EPA chooses RadNet station locations in conjunction with the National Academy of Sciences and the Science Advisory Board. The ASU station is one of 16 in Region 6, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. It is also one of only three in the region located on a college campus. The others are at the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M-International.

Once the ASU station is completely online, local citizens will also be able to access the data it collects via the Internet and keep real-time tabs on local air quality.