ST. PETERSBURG — Beneath the steeple and beside the double red doors of Gospel Ministries church is a monitor that can tell Childs Park residents if the air they are breathing is harmful.
The monitor can fit in one hand. It measures air pollution in real time for all to see. It’s another piece of information that could help this predominantly Black and low-income community figure out what health effects, if any, may come from a smell resembling gas or sulphur that has plagued the neighborhood for decades.
In April, the Tampa Bay Times reported on residents’ efforts to identify the source of the pervasive foul odor and eliminate it. In recent years, the smell has sickened neighbors, prompted a City Council member to leave the neighborhood and disrupted nearby Fairmount Park Elementary. A campaign is underway to educate and empower residents to report foul odors as they happen.
The monitor, made by a company called PurpleAir, is another way of putting residents in control. The monitor can be tracked online by the public and is accurate enough to be used in court proceedings, said Amy Stuart, an air quality expert at the University of South Florida.