AIR QUALITY PROGRAM
The City of El Paso Air Quality Program (AQP) conducts air pollution control activities (enforcement) and monitors ambient air in the City in order to comply with state and federal laws, such as the Clean Air Act. The AQP also maintains the City’s BioWatch monitoring network, funded by the US Department of Homeland Security, in order to protect the health and safety of the public from a potential airborne contaminant terrorist attack. The Program’s budget is funded by a combination of several air quality grants from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the City of El Paso.
Commitment, Accountability, Integrity, Communication
The AQP was formed in the 1960s as part of the El Paso City – County Health District, which later became the City – County Health and Environmental District. Its offices were located at the Tillman Health Center located at 222 S. Campbell St., until the Program was moved in 2009 to its current location at the Municipal Services Center at 7968 San Paulo Dr. In 2007, the District was dissolved, and led to the City taking over direct management of the services that had previously been under the purview of the District. Air Quality, Code Compliance and Vector Control programs were formally absorbed into ESD beginning in fiscal year 2008.
Today, the AQP continues its mission of serving the residents of the City of El Paso, and surrounding communities that have interlocal agreements with the City, to monitor air quality and enforce air quality rules and regulations. The Program also maintains its long-standing relationship with TCEQ, in receiving funding for operations, and serving as contracted staff to perform required air quality functions.
Karl Rimkus is the AQ Program Manager, and has been with ESD since 2009. Prior to that, he was employed for eight years at the TCEQ Region 6 Office as an Environmental Investigator. Karl currently manages the AQP and Environmental Compliance Programs for the City.
Al Melero is the AQ Enforcement Supervisor; he has over 20 years of experience in the field of air quality enforcement and oversees a staff of five AQ code compliance officers. In addition to his positive attitude, he brings a wealth of knowledge and customer services skills that are invaluable to the AQP.
Jason Sarate is the AQ Monitoring Operations Supervisor and has been with ESD since 2011; prior to that, he was employed with the City’s Department of Public Health as a Food Safety Inspector for almost two years. Jason was assigned to the AQP in 2015 during a challenging time for the monitoring operations team, and has applied his training and abilities in helping to significantly improve operations, staffing structure, quality control, and compliance and audit plans. His leadership will continue to be appreciated as the AQP looks forward to whatever the future has to bring.
AIR QUALITY ENFORCEMENT
The AQ Enforcement Team is comprised of five compliance officers and a supervisor, who enforce state air quality rules in the City of El Paso and surrounding communities and act as local contractors on behalf of TCEQ. Each officer receives training from TCEQ and the City of El Paso on a regular basis in order to effectively investigate assigned cases and complaints submitted by members of the public. With a combined total of over 60 years of experience, the Enforcement Team represents a valuable asset to the City and its residents in helping to ensure clean and healthy air in El Paso.
Common cases investigated by the Enforcement Team include:
- Odor nuisance, dust control and outdoor burning complaints
- Auto body shops
- Construction sites and parking lots (dust control)
- Gasoline stations
- Stage I Vapor Control
- Underground Storage Tank Compliance
- Seasonal fuel blending (volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide control)
- Permitted air quality facilities (minor sources)
- Concrete batch plants
- Asphalt mix plants
- Surface coating facilities
AIR QUALITY AMBIENT MONITORING OPERATIONS (MonOps)
The MonOps team consists of four technicians, two compliance officers and a supervisor. The team is tasked with the daily operation and maintenance of the City’s four air monitoring stations and four TCEQ monitoring stations. As required by federal and state law through Texas’ State Implementation Plan (SIP), ambient (not tied to a specific emission source) air monitoring is conducted to verify compliance with the federal Clean Air Act for several air pollutants that include: ground level ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide.
Typical monitoring activities include filter collection and analysis, continuous gas pollutant monitoring and data reporting, quality assurance, maintenance and repair of equipment, and scheduled audit and calibration of monitors. Data collected by the MonOps Team from the various air monitoring stations around the City is submitted to TCEQ, who is responsible for reviewing and validating the data before reporting it to the EPA. While MonOps may be less visible than AQ Enforcement, it is nonetheless vital in helping to maintain a healthy airshed over the greater El Paso area.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established the BioWatch program following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and is the nation’s only system for early warning of an aerosolized biological attack and a cornerstone of the DHS comprehensive strategy for countering terrorism. In Texas, TCEQ receives funding from DHS to maintain the BioWatch Program in the State, and in turn, contracts the City of El Paso to perform the main functions of this program within the City and at Ft. Bliss.
AQP MonOps staff are tasked daily with BioWatch air filter collection from over a dozen sites in El Paso, delivering the filters to a locally-contracted laboratory for analysis, maintaining of the sites and filter collection units, and participating in regular committee meetings, training events, and mock BioWatch incident events. While it can be said that all of the work activities that the AQP MonOps team performs for the City of El Paso, it is perhaps the BioWatch duties that are the most important in keeping the community safe from potential bioterrorism threats.
Fact Sheet (click to view):
For any complaints related to air quality, or if you have any questions related to the Program, feel free to dial “311” on your phone so that your issue can be addressed.
The most common complaints received by the AQP involve:
- Outdoor burning
- Odor nuisances
- Dust control issues
- Facilities operating without a permit from TCEQ
- Karl Rimkus, Program Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Al Melero, Enforcement Supervisor: email@example.com
- Jason Sarate, MonOps Supervisor: firstname.lastname@example.org
- AQP office: (915) 212-6032
TCEQ FORMS AND PUBLICATIONS
- An Environmental Guide for Texas Surface Coaters (RG-404)
- Answers for Small Auto Body Shops (GI-151)
- Answers to Some Burning Questions (GI-415)
- Do You Want to Make an Environmental Complaint? (GI-278)
- Obtaining TCEQ Rules (GI-032)
- The TCEQ Has Inspected Your Business (RG-344)
HELPFUL LINKS AND INFORMATION
Every day the Air Quality Index (AQI) tells you how clean or polluted your outdoor air is, along with associated health effects that may be of concern. The AQI translates air quality data into numbers and colors that help people understand when to take action to protect their health.
- Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Air-related Topics
- US Dept. of Homeland Security BioWatch Program
- El Paso and the State Implementation Plan (SIP)
Information on the State Implementation Plan (SIP) to improve air quality in the El Paso area and meet the requirements of the Federal Clean Air Act. The area includes El Paso County.
- Title 30 Texas Administrative Code Air Quality Rules (selected)
- City of El Paso Air Pollution Ordinance