The Glades community has safe, healthy and clean air according to a new report issued on the eve of sugarcane harvest season.
The “State of Our Air” report compiles and analyzes data from two Florida Department of Environmental Protection monitoring stations in Palm Beach County that measure the amount of fine particulate matter in the air.
The amount of particulate matter in the air remained within the limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for “good” air quality, which is the highest air quality classification defined by the agency.
“The Glades communities have some of the best air quality in the state,” said Robert Buker, U.S. Sugar President and CEO. “The health, safety, and wellbeing of our community continues to be a foundational commitment in everything we do. We hope this report will be a helpful resource for the families in our community.”
The data also shows that the air in the Glades community, where U.S. Sugar’s farmers operate, was cleaner than the air in nearby West Palm Beach — and that’s the case year-round, including harvest season.
The last bit is important.
The report comes as U.S. Sugar prepares for the start of its 90th sugarcane harvest season on Oct. 1, and many claim that controlled burns related to sugar farming lead to more air pollution.
Contrary to that assertion, the Belle Glade monitoring stations recorded some of the lowest levels of air pollution during harvest months.
“At U.S. Sugar, we go above and beyond what is required of us to protect our environment because we live here,” said Michael Ellis, U.S. Sugar’s Vice President of Strategic Environmental Affairs. “Our land, water, air, and natural resources are part of our legacy and promise for the future — something that we are all proud to be part of today.”
By comparison, readings from the Royal Palm Beach monitoring station show West Palm Beach slipped from “good” to “moderate” air quality for a total of 41 days between August 2019 and August 2020, and its worst days weren’t during harvest season — in fact, the average amount of pollution was about 10% lower during harvest months.
“The health department has for decades overseen Belle Glade and Royal Palm Beach air monitoring stations, and the people of Palm Beach County can be confident in the data provided by these DEP-approved monitoring devices,” said former Palm Beach County environmental supervisor and air quality expert Randall Miller.
U.S. Sugar has compiled the data into a publicly available report listing the daily readings from each monitoring station. The Belle Glade station shows that between August 2019 and August 2020, the Glades community had “good” air for all but nine days.
“This report puts the information into an easy to understand format for Glades residents to find and prove what we experience day in and day out,” said South Bay resident CyNedra Blake, who works at the Clewiston Chamber of Commerce. “As a mother who lives in this farming area, it’s reassuring to know I live in a healthy and nurturing place to raise my son.”