How local air quality readings are monitored - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

How local air quality readings are monitored

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KENNEWICK, WA - We're still experiencing bad air quality throughout the region from those fires in British Columbia. We wanted to get a better idea of how local agencies are getting the local air quality readings that are being posted online.

Throughout last week, we brought you the air quality readings from throughout the region, but it got us wondering where those readings come from. 

In Kennewick, it comes from the roof at Tri-Tech. Today, we got to one of the people in charge of making sure those readings stay accurate. Tyler Thompson and his colleagues at the Benton Clean Air Agency have been busy this past week monitoring the smoke blown in from what he calls an unusual wind pattern.

"We've had a northern wind that's really uncharacteristic for this area, and that's what's keeping it all sopped in," Thompson said. "As soon as we get a southwest wind as we're accustomed to seeing down here, it should start to kick most of this out of here."

But until that wind comes, we're stuck with seeing and breathing this.

They use equipment that allows air into a tube and calculates the amount of smoke in the air using a light and mirror.

 Thompson says the air quality hits its peak lows for this summer as we went into this past weekend.

"Friday night, I believe, the air monitoring got into the "unhealthy" category, which, you know, nobody really should be outside unless they have to," said Thompson.

The data goes online for anyone to see on an hour delay. Thompson adds that even though they conduct the tests and hold the keys to the information, the Clean Air Agency does not make decisions or enforce those decisions, like canceling a sporting event because of high readings.

That, he says, is up to the organizers of that particular event.

"We're primarily held responsible with making sure the monitors stay running, stay accurate, give the most up-to-date data that we can, and then everybody that needs to can use that data to make their own decisions for their own departments."

Data that's being used 'round the clock right now by government agencies, businesses, and people in their homes alike.