Air can be an easy thing for people to take for granted. Sometimes we forget it’s the only thing we touch externally and take internally for every minute of our lives after birth. Energy, climate change, and air quality go hand in hand. Other than contributing to climate change, air pollutants can cause health problems for plants, humans, and most other living things. The purpose of the Air Quality Program is to protect the quality of ambient and indoor air on the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Reservation and surrounding airshed for the health and well being of resident tribal, non-tribal, and ecologic communities. Some of the projects taken on by the Air Quality Program include air quality monitoring, an emissions inventory, tracking and promoting energy efficiency, conducting indoor air quality assessments, and the development of renewable energy projects.
The Air Quality Program is currently monitoring atmospheric mercury levels through forest leaf litter. Throughout the growing season, airborne mercury becomes bonded to leaves. Local deciduous leaves are systematically collected through the fall season and then analyzed for mercury content. The sample analysis will be compared with other sample locations in the National Atmospheric Deposition Program. LTBB is interested in environmental mercury levels due to the potential health risks associated with consuming natural foods where it may accumulate. Mercury is known to accumulate in fish, a traditional staple in the Odawa diet.
Above: LTBB’s leaf litter collection site for monitoring atmospheric mercury.
In 2014 the Air Program developed an emissions inventory. The inventory logs and describes the most significant sources of air pollution on the LTBB Reservation and the area within 25 miles of the Reservation boundary. Future updates of the inventory will be useful in determining how air quality might change over time. This type of documentation is also useful in determining if the program needs to focus efforts on any certain source or pollutant.
Energy efficiency is vital in reducing air pollution. Most of our electricity is still generated by burning coal and natural gas. Many coal power plants are being replaced with cleaner burning natural gas power plants. However, increased natural gas use leads to more fracking and another set of environmental concerns. The Air Quality program tracks the energy efficiency of LTBB owned facilities in hopes that reductions can be accomplished. Renewable energy use is also promoted by providing technical support on the feasibility and effectiveness of technologies like solar and wind power.
Above (top): LTBB Fish Hatchery 20 kW Solar Array. Above (bottom): LTBB Natural Resources Department 30 kW Solar Array.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is vital because most people spend most of their time indoors. In northern Michigan IAQ is usually lower quality than our outdoor air. The old advice about getting out for some fresh air holds a lot of truth. It’s typical for the concentration of indoor air pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor concentrations. Homes can also trap moisture and provide a place for mold to grow. Excessive mold growth can irritate the respiratory system and cause allergic reactions. To help tribal citizens deal with these issues, we offer indoor IAQ assessments and solutions for cleanup.