Study shows issues with Richmond’s air quality have improved over the years

Local News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In the second year of a three-year grant, the Science Museum of Virginia has released some preliminary findings about the quality of the air local residents are breathing in.

The RVAir community science project studies air quality in Richmond’s neighborhoods, with the support of local volunteers. According to data revealed at a virtual meeting Wednesday night, the City of Richmond has good air quality, especially when compared with other cities.

“Richmond air quality is actually quite good, compared to other metropolitan areas, especially larger cities,. The area currently meets all the air quality standards, which are set to protect public health for all the pollutants that we measure,” Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Meteorologist Dan Salkovitz said. “Once you get from D.C. and head up north along the I-95 corridor, all the way up to Massachusetts, for example, there’s still issues.”

Salkovitz said that since the 1990s, the City of Richmond has seen significant improvement in terms of its air quality. However, Devin Jefferson with the Science Museum of Virginia told 8News that there are some exceptions, especially when looking at specific neighborhoods and times of the year.

For example, over the summer, the City of Richmond was blanketed with a thick haze in the sky, which came from air that carried tiny particles from wildfires on the west coast and in Canada to Central Virginia. Salkovitz said that the day after Independence Day can also be a time of worse air quality because of the remnants of fireworks set off the night before.

“The urban design of what’s in the neighborhood, what features are there — Is there a park? Are there trees? How much traffic comes through that area on a regular basis?” Jefferson said. “All of that good stuff does come into play.”

Jefferson said that local residents have also asked about the impacts of roundabouts in their neighborhood — whether that hurts or helps the quality of the air they’re breathing in.

“As you’re rolling around, there’s just very, very tiny flakes of rubber that are just going everywhere, as well as the exhaust, when you’re accelerating,” he explained. “If you’re going through a roundabout, you’re probably not going to have to accelerate quite as hard because you’re not coming from a complete stop, in most cases.”

The air quality in the City of Richmond can be viewed in real time by clicking here. The higher the number on that map, the worse the air quality. When 8News looked at the map around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the area of Chamberlayne Avenue between W Laburnum Avenue and W Brookland Park Boulevard had a nine rating, which was nearly twice that other areas of the city at the same time.

“It can inform people’s long-term plans for health and planning,” Jefferson said. “Through the RVAir program, we’ve been able to see, preliminarily, there are differences based on specific neighborhoods that we’ve been able to collect data in.”

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