The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday evening announced a wide-scale monitoring project that will monitor compliance with regulations in a number of vulnerable communities in the South.
The program, the Pollution Accountability Team, will monitor air pollution and cleanup progress from both the air and the ground, according to the agency.
Regional inspectors will conduct regular follow-ups for site-specific emissions. The program, set to launch in the spring, will pay particular attention to newer and emerging contaminants like ethylene oxide and chloroprene, according to the announcement.
Administrator Michael Regan also announced on a call with reporters that he has directed the agency’s enforcement arm to increase unannounced inspections of suspected noncompliant facilities.
Regan further announced a number of city and local efforts in communities covered by the new program. They include water contamination in Jackson, Miss., where the EPA on Tuesday issued a notice of noncompliance to the city over allegations that it had not properly maintained water potability infrastructure.
The team will also implement air monitoring in Mossville, La., as well as Louisiana’s St. James and St. John the Baptist parishes. The agency will put some $600,000 toward mobile air pollution monitoring equipment in the three communities.
The announcement follows a November 2021 tour by Regan of numerous vulnerable communities through Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
“Today, the action that EPA is taking in is in direct response to what I saw and what I heard on the ground,” Regan said on the call. “Underserved communities … have been waiting long enough and they are counting on us to get this right. The first step to showing these communities that this administration sees them, we hear them and we are responding.”
Regan added that while the pilot program would incorporate the three states that were included on the tour, expansion was possible. He specifically cited Milwaukee, where he and Vice President Harris traveled earlier this week to tout the administration’s efforts to replace lead pipes.