DOH asks for public input on new air quality monitoring stations

  • A thick layer of vog obscures Hualalai on June 4. (CHELSEA JENSEN/WEST HAWAII TODAY)

KAILUA-KONA — The Hawaii Department of Health announced Thursday plans to install 10 new ambient air quality monitoring stations across Hawaii Island.

Several of the new monitors, which will measure sulfur dioxide (SO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5), will be situated in West Hawaii. Vog produced by the Kilauea volcano eruption has taken up more or less permanent residence throughout the region as prevailing winds and the island’s topography trap the irritating haze up and down the leeward coast.


Dr. Bruce Anderson, DOH director, has requested the public’s help in the decision of where precisely to locate the department’s coming air quality investment.

“The input we have received from residents during community meetings has been invaluable,” he said in a DOH release. “We want to encourage ongoing dialogue so we can better address their concerns and ensure an effective response.”

Those who wish to submit suggestions may do so by emailing DOH’s Clean Air Branch at by June 27.

Anderson first mentioned plans for new air quality monitors at a public forum that convened last week at West Hawaii Civic Center. The meeting came on the heels of public outcry spurred on by some of the most unhealthy PM2.5 readings in the area since DOH began monitoring here almost a decade ago.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website, PM2.5 levels registered at “unhealthy for sensitive groups” in Ocean View throughout much of Thursday, while Kona saw a couple hours of “unhealthy for sensitive groups” levels in the late morning, dipping back to “moderate” readings into the afternoon.

In Thursday’s release, the department noted generally the districts of South Kona, North Kona and South Kohala as areas relevant to the coming expansion of its monitoring network.

But at the forum Lisa Young, environmental health specialist with the DOH’s Clean Air Branch, said the department is looking more specifically at both a coastal and inland site in Waikoloa, a site at Kealakehe High or Kealakehe Middle School, replacing a temporary site at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority with a permanent one, and initiating construction at sites in Hookena and Naalehu. Waikoloa currently has one temporary monitoring station.

Forum attendees had suggestions about spacing and elevation of the monitors to achieve maximum effectiveness, and it’s this type of input Anderson and DOH are now seeking.

Jenny Rhodes, who lives with her three children in Holualoa at an elevation around 1,200 feet, said Thursday she’d like to see measurements taken in that general elevation range, where the vog appears to “hang.”

She also questioned the logic of placing an ambient device, which monitors air quality in its immediate vicinity, at a place like NELHA.

“What’s over by NELHA?” she asked. “It’s not where people are actually living.”

Effective utilization of the monitors is key, as they can run in excess of $120,000 a piece when considering security and electrical access costs.

The release stated that station installation typically takes between a few months to a year, but that DOH hopes to move more quickly. Anderson noted last week he hoped to have the ball rolling on several new West Hawaii stations within two months.

Five permanent stations already exist, one each in South Kona, Hilo, Ocean View, Pahala and Mountain View. There are also two National Park Service stations at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

With its 10 new additions, DOH will operate a statewide network of 25 air quality monitoring stations across all islands.

  1. blunt TrUth June 15, 2018 7:04 am

    Lol, they don’t want to put monitors where people are actually living… That would trigger a real estate crash!

    1. ypupule June 15, 2018 8:02 am

      Maybe even more so, near the hotels and resort areas. Those will probably be the last ones installed… maybe a few years from now, lol. Good luck with sticking one anywhere near Waikoloa or Mauna Lani.

      Expect a whole litany of excuses — “technical issues,” “waiting for parts,” “legal issues need to be resolved,” etc. They’ll probably plan it for a location where they already know there’s some issue that will prevent them from actually installing it there… then cite “unforeseen” circumstances as a reason for delaying it… and finally, saying they are “researching new locations.” At least, that’s what I would do if I was in their shoes, haha.

      Either that, or install in the resort GM’s air-conditioned office, lol.

    2. Bill June 15, 2018 8:13 am

      So true.

      Who would want to buy property here now? The VOG is THICK!

      Yesterday was so bad that it’s like living in the air quality of an industrial age town. Even on normal trade wind days there is far, far more VOG than prior to these eruptions.

      However, anyone with access to to the internet can go the the PurpleAir website and zoom into this side of the island to see the multitude of sensors to easily get an idea of what is going on with PM2.5. Or look at the Sharaton Kona Resort webcam (or many other webcams around the area) to see how bad the VOG is from day to day.

  2. Bill June 15, 2018 8:24 am

    It’s just after 8AM and the air quality on DOH’s sensors and most of the ones on the PurpleAir website are already over 100 (i.e. “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”). Sensitive Groups include people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children.

    So what are all the older people going to do (lots of people have bought property and retired here), or everyone with children?

  3. Buds4All June 15, 2018 9:24 am

    “Dr. Bruce Anderson, DOH director, has requested the public’s help in the decision of where precisely to locate the department’s coming air quality investment.”……………Excuse Me Dr. are you not the expert here and should be telling us where to put them? This it a typical Government Worker activity…dish my job off to someone else. How much do you make a year? Damn it now get out there and do your job and earn your pay and should we not agree with where you put them for some reason we will let you know and you can then tell us to go punt sand, like the rest of the Govies!

  4. Jack Threadfin June 15, 2018 12:11 pm

    “$120,000 and a few months to a year to install”

    Purple Air monitors are accurate enough, cost $220, with a week for shipping and 20 minutes to install.

    Which would you choose?

  5. 4whatitsworth June 15, 2018 7:20 pm

    We all know how the island works.. every time you come around a point (corner) like Kealakekua, Keauhou, Keahole the Vog pattern and weather is different. We also know that the elevations are different at sea level, 1,000 feet, 2,000 feet the vog and weather is also different so be a little more efficient or contract with purple air and put three sensors at each corner at each elevation.

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