Schenectady sensors show improving air quality as officials urge caution

Man at podium with two people behind

Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford, Mayor Gary McCarthy and City Council Member Doreen Ditoro update residents on the city's air quality at City Hall on Thursday.

SCHENECTADY — Schenectady’s Smart City sensors recorded improving air quality conditions on Thursday afternoon, but officials urged caution in the coming days as health concerns still remain due to smoke from the ongoing Canadian wildfires.

The six sensors placed throughout the city in phases last year to monitor weather conditions recorded high levels of particles in the air on Wednesday, with neighborhoods including Woodlawn, Central State and Hamilton Hill all hitting an “unhealthy” level of air quality at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

By Thursday morning, all neighborhoods in the city had dropped to “moderate” levels of air quality, with Woodlawn deemed “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” By 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, all six sensors were at yellow levels, indicating “moderate” conditions.

One week prior, each neighborhood recorded green levels, translating to “good” air conditions.

“In the last 24 hours and even in the last few hours, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the air quality,” McCarthy said on Thursday afternoon. “It’s not something that we can be quite sure what the outcome is going to be in the short term, as the fires are still burning in the Canadian provinces and they’re being monitored on an ongoing basis.”

Shannon DuJack, the Associate Nurse Manager in the Emergency Department of Ellis Medicine, said that residents should limit their outdoor exposure for the next several days and stay indoors with the windows closed as much as possible until the air quality returns to normal levels.

“That is the recommendation,” she said on Thursday at an event at city hall. “They can run a fan for circulation inside the house, but I would not open up any windows.”

DuJack said the hospital is urging people who are suffering mild symptoms such as skin irritation to contact their primary physician or visit an urgent care facility, but noted that patients with severe symptoms should go to the emergency room.

“We’ve seen a very small amount of people so far with just generalized smoke inhalation symptoms,” she said of the Ellis emergency room. “I wouldn’t say it’s a large number.”

McCarthy said the city has been in contact with county health officials to share data regarding local air quality.

“Most people are more aware of the lighting controls we have on the LED fixtures and some of the optical sensors, but these are the environmental sensors that we have that normally provide interesting information,” he said on Thursday. “But in the last few days we’ve seen a far more practical ability to monitor what’s happening within the City of Schenectady.”

Schenectady Fire Chief Donald Mareno said that residents with pre-existing conditions should be cautious while the air quality remains substandard, including the wearing of masks while outdoors.

“We don’t know how long this is going to last,” he said on Thursday. “It’s better today than it’s been, but they’re predicting that we could see a return of it in the next couple of days.”

Contact Ted Remsnyder at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @TedRemsnyder.

Categories: News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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