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# The Public Lab Blog

stories from the Public Lab community

# Remembering Tonawanda

by kgradow1 with jjcreedon | about 1 year ago | 1 | 1

For ten years, community members fought to hold Tonawanda Coke accountable for poisoning the air in Tonawanda NY. Using buckets, summa canisters, and tenacious organizing, they collaborated with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) and found that the amount of benzene emitted by Tonawanda Coke was nine times higher than what was being reported to the EPA.

Jackie James Creedon is a founder of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York (CAC) and Citizen Science Community Resources (CSCR) and a contributor to Public Lab, as well as an advisor on the bucket monitor project. She agreed to share her story, which has been lightly edited with permission.

## Toxic in Tonawanda: Unexplained Cancers

What happened in Tonawanda?

Really, what was intended was to clean up our own backyards. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I didn’t know what caused it. In January of 2002 there was a front page Buffalo News article called “Toxic in Tonawanda?” They interviewed a bunch of people, residents and workers in the area who were all sick. It was people’s stories. Not only were they sick, but there were stories of how their animals had strange diseases and ended up dying. I saw the article and that was really the impetus for me to start researching and finding out what was going on.

I said, “Something doesn’t seem right.” So I reached out to some of those people and just started asking a lot of questions.

Buffalo News article, “Toxic in Tonawanda?” Image courtesy of Citizen Science Community Resources

There was another factory that rolled uranium for the atomic bomb in Tonawanda, and some of those workers worked for this other factory and they were very ill. There was this feeling that that was what was making everybody sick. The residents and the workers had voiced their opinions pretty loud, so the New York State Department of Health came to investigate. They conducted a cancer surveillance study from 1994-1998. They came to Tonawanda to announce their results in 2002. Sure enough, it showed certain cancers and overall cancers were significantly higher than the state averages. They said that none of the cancers that were elevated were associated with uranium exposure, so they just sort of packed up their bags and went home.

I specifically remember that day, that evening, saying, “If it’s not that, then what is it? I want to find out.”

## Toxic Bus Tour and Global Community Monitor

When I started, there was a small local organization called Citizens Environmental Coalition. They had a small Buffalo office with one employee. I reached out and asked them, “Is there a proper citizen’s environmental group in Tonawanda?” And he said “No.” And I said, “OK, I’m going to start one.” The original four of us were Adele, Tim, her husband, and me, and this gentleman who worked for this environmental organization called Mike Schade, who had worked for Lois Gibbs for awhile. So we started a community organization.

In 2003 I was speaking at a rally for Lois Gibbs -- as you know, Love Canal is not far from here either, it was the 25th anniversary and I was asked to speak about the issues in Tonawanda. It was a Toxic Tour, everyone gets on a bus. We were in Tonawanda, I was speaking, that’s when Adele approached me. She said, “You know, I think it’s something in our air that is making us sick.” and I said, “I think maybe you’re right.”

Soon after that I was having coffee with Mike Schade from this environmental organization and he said, “I know of this gentleman in northern CA, his name is Denny Larson, he has this organization called Global Community Monitor. There’s a method to take an air sample called the bucket method.”

What did you originally hope to accomplish?

We wanted to reduce air pollution in our community. None of us were activists, we were concerned citizens, so we had a lot of learning to do. We found out that Tonawanda was home to 54 air regulated facilities. That’s a lot. We also read some brochures about how to get organized and Denny sent us a book about how to run a good neighbor campaign. And that’s what we decided, that we wanted to run a good neighbor campaign based on the results of the bucket.

So from there, Denny had a small grant, he came to Tonawanda, we met in somebody’s basement. Probably 8-10 of us. And we built a couple of buckets. He showed us how to use them. At that point we really only had one bucket. So then we had a bucket, we knew how to use it. And that’s when we learned that we needed to do a brigade.

.

Denny Larson with the “Bucket”, 2003. Image courtesy of Citizen Science Community Resources

A brigade is hunting for a smell. Because these industries pollute mainly in the middle of the night. We had to set an alarm and go out in the middle of the night. So we did that a couple of times. The infamous time that we collected an air sample with our bucket was either the first or the second time. We didn’t do it a lot. The buckets are cheap to make, but it’s expensive for the analysis. You really want to make sure to capture a “bad” smell, because it’s only a three minute sample, and those odors can move really quickly. Apparently we did a good job in capturing it!

At this point we had no idea that most of our polluted air was coming from Tonawanda Coke. We just knew our air stunk. It was August 2004 that we held a bucket brigade at night, we captured an air sample to have it analyzed. We got the results back and still didn’t know what all the numbers meant. We met in Tim’s living room and planned how we were going to announce the results. And that’s when we changed our name from Toxic in Tonawanda to Clean Air Coalition of Western New York.

Building the “Bucket” with Denny Larson, 2003 Image courtesy of Citizen Science Community Resources

The Tonawanda Bucket Brigade, 2004 Image courtesy of Citizen Science Community Resources

## Carbon Disulfide and the 3M Campaign

Besides benzene, we also found another chemical called carbon disulfide that we were concerned about. We figured out this was coming from 3M which has a sponge company in Tonawanda.

3M Factory, as seen in Google Maps

See, Tonawanda was a complicated situation because there were 54 air regulated facilities in a very concentrated area. Tonawanda has the highest concentration of regulated facilities in all of New York State. It was hard to figure out who was doing what. It took a lot of research. So we figured it out, it was carbon disulfide and benzene. Carbon disulfide was easy to figure out, 3M was really the only source. So we met with 3M, trying to do the good neighbor campaign. We met with the owners and we were pretty satisfied. We were working with an engineer at the NYS DEC that we felt we could trust and he went there with us. 3M actually flew someone in from their headquarters to give us a presentation on everything that they’re doing to reduce emissions in Tonawanda. They treated us very respectfully. They met with us, said, “This is what we’re doing,” and guess what? They did it!

So we were like, “OK! This seems pretty easy. Let’s move on to the next one.” Beginner’s luck. Well, then the fun began! So the benzene. We took the sample not far from the expressway, but we didn’t know where it was coming from. We had our monthly meetings at the local fire hall on Saturday mornings, and one Saturday morning this engineer from NYS DEC attended our meeting. He was the one who said, “You might really want to take a look at Tonawanda Coke. The owner is sort of a bad actor.” He was the one that started dropping ideas to us at those Saturday morning meetings that maybe something was up.

Tonawanda Coke, 2018. Image courtesy of Paul Leuchner of Citizen Science Community Resources

## Using Summa Canisters to Verify Bucket Results

We were working very closely with DEC at this point. This engineer named Al Carlacci was very respectful to us. He listened to us. We were respectful too. We didn’t demand anything. It was really about relationship building and getting to that point of trusting each other, which is huge. Figuring out who you can trust, who you can’t, who’s going to help you, who’s not going to help you. Anyway, this guy Al was really a good guy, he meant it. So he took our data and said, “Yeah, you know, it’s high, but it’s only one three minute sample.”

It all came down to one day in March of 2014, this one person, Judge Skretny, deciding the fate of Tonawanda Coke and the environmental manager. Was the community going to get anything? This case was historical in a lot of ways. It was only the second time in history that a company was convicted under the Clean Air Act in a federal lawsuit, and it was the first time that a judge ordered community projects as a term of probation at sentencing. At the sentencing, TCC was ordered to pay $12.5 million in fines and$12.2 million in community studies. So he funded the community, and our $700,000 soil study! ## This was the beginning of Citizen Science Community Resources. That was huge! We were not even a non-profit. He also funded an$11 million University of Buffalo health study. The environmental manager was sentenced to a year in jail. He was fined $20,000. It was obviously a big win for our community. And on the civil side, Tonawanda Coke agreed to install pollution control equipment. Their benzene was reduced by 86 percent in our community. We got our reduction in benzene. TCC didn't fight the civil actions, they settled that case. There was also$1.3 million set aside for community projects. In total, the community got over $13 million for environment and health projects.. In the same year, J.D. Crane, the owner of TCC, had passed away. He was 92 years old. His grandson, Paul Saffrin, took over the business. Mr. Saffrin vowed that he was going to turn everything around and be a good neighbor. We thought as a community, “OK, we got our benzene reductions, we got our community projects, let’s give this guy a chance.” But over the next several years, nothing really had changed. This facility was a 100 year old facility. Just the nature of such an old dilapidated factory, there were things that were polluting our community, and people were still dying. OSHA wound up going in. There was this incident where the safety control on a conveyor belt wasn’t put into place and a gentleman’s zipper on his jacket got caught. Poor guy got pulled in and died! Things like this kept happening. Another time, there was an explosion. People got hurt. We would hear stories about something happening consistently. TCC employees were leaking information to community members, and then other community members were calling me. The DEC would get an inclination that something happened, and they would follow up. Tonawanda Coke would give them a bullshit story. Some employees with Tonawanda Coke were talking with people from the community and calling me with the real story, and then I was going back to the DEC. Again and again and again, there were these upsets. They’d lie about it. They’d get caught again. It was continuous. ## July 2018: StoptheStacks and the closure of Tonawanda Coke The final upset happened in January 2018. There was an underground tunnel that collapsed. We started seeing black billowing smoke coming out of the facility again. TCC was giving us bullshit again, “It will be fixed, it will be fixed.” Everyone started taking photographs and putting them on social media. At this point, TCC was still under probation with the DOJ and the DEC was on their butt too. Everyone was so sick of this company. The amount of energy that went into trying to keep these guys following environmental rules and regulations was enormous. It was ridiculous. There was a huge fire in July of 2018. The fire trucks came to Tonawanda Coke. We started getting all these complaints and people taking photographs from the expressway. A few TCC employees drove a forklift to the entrance of Tonawanda Coke and wouldn’t let the fire company in. They told them, “Go away, we’ve got it handled.” TCC was such a bad actor. That’s when we ran the campaign, StoptheStacks. At this point, the community, elected officials and the agencies had had enough. We gave them another shot, but they blew it. We decided, “We want them gone.” Our local official, Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joe Emminger and the town board all went on record saying, “This company needs to go.” That was huge, because they had had enough too. “The amount of taxes we are getting from this company are nothing compared to the people who are being put into harm’s way, the workers who were put into harm’s way, the pollution, the stress. “ So that was it. A multipronged approach with everyone rounding the wagons against Tonawanda Coke. In October of 2018 Tonawanda Coke announced that they were closing their doors and shuttering the plant. That’s the end! We have clean air now in Tonawanda. Our cancer risk due to benzene, at one point, was 75 times New York State guidelines. Now it’s down to New York State averages. We also have a significant reduction in particulate matter and many other toxins. All those other companies, when they heard and saw what the community had done, they really got their act together and installed more air pollution equipment. It was a domino effect. We were to be taken seriously. Image courtesy of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation It wasn’t like that at the beginning. At the beginning we didn’t even go to our elected officials because very few wanted to be on our side.. But it was the data, and working with NYS DEC and EPA. When we had that solid data from the NYS DEC “Tonawanda Community Air Quality Study”, that’s when everything turned around. ## Remembering Tonawanda In March 2014, Tonawanda Coke was fined$12.5 million and ordered to pay $12.2 million in community service projects by the U.S. Department of Justice after the company was indicted and convicted of breaking federal criminal and environmental laws the previous year. It was only the second time in history that a federal criminal case had been successfully tried under the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In subsequent civil proceedings, the company settled a suit with the State of New York and the EPA by signing a consent decree and paid$2.75 million in civil penalties for violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). Additionally, the company spent approximately $7.9 million to reduce air pollution and enhance air and water quality, and$1.3 million for environmental projects in the area of Tonawanda, New York.

What was your journey like? How did you build knowledge over the course of this campaign?

My background is science. Science always intrigued me. I like to ask a lot of questions, put it all together, and try and figure things out. I think that the biggest knowledge that I personally gained was this: I thought once we had this data, that that would bring us a victory. I was wrong. It was a significant pivotal moment in the story; however, it wasn’t enough. I’ve heard from other communities who use citizen or community science, that they struggle with same thing. The science is not enough. It’s about taking that science, and learning how to use it to advocate for your community. A big part of winning is about relationship building.

Do you think this project would have been different if DEC had not done the follow up study?

I think Tonawanda Coke would still be operating today. I had a resident call me the other day and say thank you. It had dawned on him, because of this COVID-19 situation, how it impacts people’s lungs. That’s how their coke oven gas was impacting our community. It’s benzene, but it’s also black soot, particulate matter. He said, “Oh my gosh, if TCC’s air emissions hadn't been eliminated, we would be much more sick with COVID.” We really saved lives. However, there were a lot of lives that were lost. It tore my heart out so many times. People who had cancer that we lost. They knew in their heart what had caused their cancer and wanted to do something about it for the short period of time they had left.

Why did you decide to change the name?

In 2003, when we started we called ourselves Toxic in Tonawanda. But after we collected the first set of data, we thought that name was a little too radical. We wanted to seem credible. That’s when we changed our name. The original group was the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, now we’re Citizen Science Community Resources.

What do you remember most vividly about doing this work?

It’s taken a long time for me to digest everything. That all of this happened.. It’s important for me to tell the story because I remember how important it is to pass along the lessons learned. Much of our society operates by putting profits and power ahead of the environment and people's health. I didn't know this before. It was a sad reality for me. TCC polluted our community because they thought they were above the law. All at the expense of our health and our environment. We need to change our systems where we give more significance to saving people's lives and health and safety of our communities.

What would you recommend to others who are just starting a campaign like this?

I remember Denny talking about this. Usually fighting lean and mean is a good idea. It’s really important to be careful about who you bring into the fold, into the core group, and to be able to rely on those people. There were many times when I took the lead, or Tim took the lead, or Adele took the lead. We sort of cycled. But the four of us -- mainly the three of us -- we were all on the same wavelength. The environment and health of our community always came first.

These small meetings with the state agencies were so important. Don’t bring the issue up in the media right away, then you lose all sorts of trust. Media should be used right at the end as a last ditch effort. We went to the agencies first and built a working relationship with the people we could trust. There’s certain parts of the story that I feel are really important -- this, for instance, was really critical in why we were successful.

And it’s about community science. That’s what it was! Community science.

This post is part of the Bucket Monitor project.

Subscribe to the tag "bucket-monitor" to get updates when we post new material.

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epa air-quality history blog

# DIY Satellite Ground Station

by sashae with sophied | about 1 year ago | 2 | 2

#### Guide for the reception of NOAA satellite images using software defined radio on Windows or MacOS

We document here only a few ways to receive an Automatic Picture Transmission (APT) from active National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites. Other software and hardware setups are possible! Importantly, the guide is limited to Windows and MacOS. Please get in touch if you would like to contribute instructions for Linux or another operating system.

NOAA 19 N 80 W 2020-05-17 18-03 BST Multi-spectral Analysis

## What you need

### Hardware

• A computer of any model. 4GB RAM or higher is ideal.
• A software defined radio dongle. There are many kinds are available:
• An antenna capable of receiving circularly polarised transmissions:
• One or two cables. We recommend two options:
• an RF cable for connection between antenna and dongle (£5–10).
The RF cable should have 50 ohms impedance. Two metres is a good length. The cable needs a male SMA plug to fit into the dongle.
• a USB A male to USB A female extension cable (£5–10) and a short cable or adapter to connect your dongle to your antenna. Ideally, the USB cable should be no longer than 3 metres to avoid interference. This set-up is based on the RTL-SDR dongle kits (£35), which come with a dongle, adapter, extension cable as well as a portable dipole antenna.

Note: #open-weather hopes to publish a tutorial on DIY antenna design and construction soon!

### Software

• Virtual audio cable
• Satellite decoding software
For both Windows and Mac OS we use WXtoImg (free)

### Humans

Once you've assembled the hardware, a day to half a day, a little patience and, ideally, a buddy to do things like hold your antenna while you tune the software.

### Useful acronyms

Acronym Description
APT Automatic Picture Transmission
NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
MacOS Mac or Macintosh Operating System
WAV Waveform Audio File
LEO Low Earth Orbit

## Understanding what you are about to do

### NOAA satellite transmissions

How do NOAA satellites collect data?
The images transmitted by NOAA satellites are produced by the satellite's primary scanning instrument called the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR). The instrument is designed to detect five channels of radiant energy from the surface of the Earth ranging from the visible spectrum to the near-infrared and infrared or thermal spectra. As the satellite passes over a given part of the earth, the AVHRR sensors collect and transmit data in near-real time. Think of the satellite as scanning Earth's surface line by line. In the resulting images each pixel is approximately 4 × 4 km.

How do they transmit data?
The NOAA satellites have inbuilt radio antennas that transmit the data collected by the AVHRR instrument on a frequency in the 137 MHz range. To minimise interference between satellites, each NOAA satellite transmits on a different frequency within the 137 MHz range.

How do NOAA satellites orbit?
NOAA satellites orbit the Earth sun-synchronously. A sun-synchronous orbit is a nearly polar orbit in which the satellite passes over a given point of the planet's surface at the same time everyday. The NOAA satellites follow a Low Earth Orbit (LEO). A LEO is an Earth-centered orbit with an altitude below 2,000 km. Each satellite circles the Earth approximately every 100 minutes.

### Hardware

What does the antenna do?
Your antenna is a sensor. It catches electromagnetic waves and transforms them into an electrical current i.e. an electrical signal. All antennas are tuned to specific frequency ranges meaning that they receive or transmit these frequencies best. Most antennas are directional.

What does the RF cable do?
An RF cable is an insulated radio frequency cable. It includes a central conductor surrounded by a shield conductor. The cable carries electrical signals from one point to another (i.e. from your antenna to your dongle) without introducing interference.

What does the dongle do?
The dongle receives the electrical signal from the coaxial cable, filters it, and converts it from analogue to a digital I/Q so that it can be read by your computer.

### Software

Why do you need software?
You need software to process the digital signal sent to your computer by your dongle. Software makes these signals visible and audible; other software decodes the signals transmitted by the satellites into visual images.

What are the different kinds of software needed?
To decode transmissions from satellites, you need three kinds of software:

• Software Defined Radio or SDR software to demodulate the radio waves caught by your antenna and tune to specific frequencies, like a traditional radio. SDR software outputs audio
• Satellite decoding software (e.g. WXtoImg) to take the audio generated by the SDR software and decode it into an image
• A virtual audio cable software to link the SDR software and the satellite decoding software...

How can I practice using SDR software?
The best way to practice using SDR technologies is to take your equipment (antenna, computer, dongle and cables) out into a nearby open space, plug everything in, launch your SDR software, and have fun exploring the radio spectrum. You can try things like changing modes (modulation), scrolling through ham radio bands, and switching frequencies. See below for start up guide to SDR software.

How do you connect your SDR software to your satellite decoding software?
No matter what kind of computer you have and what kind of SDR software you prefer, you need to send the audio output from your SDR software to your satellite decoding software (e.g. WXtoImg). You can use a range of free software to act as the 'virtual cable' between the SDR software and satellite decoding software. @sophied uses Soundflower (for Mac) while @sashae prefers VB Cable (for Windows 10).

## Instructions

DIY satellite ground station, @sophied CC BY 2.0

### Step 1: Assemble your kit

1. Connect your antenna to your RF cable. (If you need to assemble your antenna do this first)

2. Screw the coaxial cable into the non-USB side of the dongle (Be careful not to over tighten the cable connector as they are easily destroyed. No more than finger tight)

3. Plug your dongle into a free USB port on your computer

### Step 2: Install a virtual audio cable

1. Download and install a virtual audio cable. We use Soundflower for Mac (@sophied) and VB Cable for Windows (@sashae).

2. Follow the install instructions on the application's website.

### Step 3: Set up your SDR software

#### If you are using SDR# for Windows, follow these steps:

See below for SDR software set up on MacOS

@sashae decoding a NOAA satellite pass using SDR# and WXtoImg

2. Plug your dongle into a USB port. Launch SDR#.

SDR# start-up window

3. Select your Dongle type. Use the arrow to Select Source > [Your Dongle]

4. Set the Samplerate. In the left panel, scroll down to view the Audio settings. Select Samplerate > 192,000 sample/second.

5. Adjust Audio Input and Output settings. Make sure the audio input is your computer's soundcard. For @sashae this means selecting MME Microsoft soundcard from the input list. Make sure the audio output is your virtual audio cable.

SDR# audio settings

6. Start receiving: Click the Play button at the top left of the window.

7. Tune to a frequency: In the frequency display box, click on the upper half of each number to increase, and the lower half to decrease frequency. You can also click, drag and scroll through frequencies using the waterfall display.

Changing frequency in SDR#

8. Changing Modes: click bubbles labelled AM, NFM, WFM, USB, LSB, CW at the left panel to change the mode in which data is demodulated by the software. For receiving transmissions from NOAA satellites, Choose WFM or "Wide FM".

Selecting modes in SDR#

9. Adjusting Bandwidth: in the left panel, find the window for bandwidth; use your number keys or the small up / down arrows to increase or decrease bandwidth. For receiving satellite transmissions, select a bandwidth between 36,000 - 45,000 KHz.

Tip: You can also use your mouse: in the waterfall display, click on the edge of the frequency range and drag left or right to manually increase or decrease bandwidth.

10. Adjusting Volume: drag the Volume slider to increase or decrease.

Tip: Other settings in SDR# can remain in default modes; For example the Filter in SDR# can remain Blackman-Harris 4.

#### If you are using CubicSDR for Mac, follow these steps:

@sophied decoding a NOAA satellite pass using CubicSDR and WXtoImg

Tip: You will be directed to the most recent version of CubicSDR on GitHub. If you cannot see a file with "Mac" in its name, look for "Darwin". Why? MacOS software runs off a piece of open source software called Darwin.

2. Launch CubicSDR

3. In the dialog window select your dongle from the Devices list and click Start. For example, for the RTL-SDR dongle select "Generic RTL2832U OEM :: 00000001".

CubicSDR Dialogue window

Tip: If you do not know it already, find out the sample rate of your dongle. When the dongle is selected, its sample rate will be displayed in the table on the right side of the dialogue window. Make a note of it.

4. Click Sample Rate and select the correct sample rate for your dongle. The sample rate for the RTL-SDR dongle is 1.92 MHz.

5. To check CubicSDR is working, click anywhere on the bottom waterfall.

The default settings for Cubic SDR are:

Setting Default
Modulation type FM (Frequency Modulation)
Demodulation frequency 100 MHz
Bandwidth 200 KHz
Audio out You computer’s default audio output

Tip: In Europe, the 100 MHz area of the radio spectrum is used for public radio broadcasts. If you click on an area of the waterfall in yellow or orange you should hear a radio station.

Tip: CubicSDR offers useful Hover Tips and information on commands and shortcuts in the bottom bar of the window. Hover Tips are switched on by default and are a great way to get to know the software. If you want to turn them off, click Settings > deselect Show hover tips. Take time to explore these!

6. Tune to a frequency. There are three easy ways to tune to a frequency in CubicSDR

• Under the label 'Centre Frequency', click on the upper and lower parts of the numbers.

Tuning to a frequency in CubicSDR

• Click on the lower waterfall.

• Begin typing a number. A pop-up window will appear. Complete typing the frequency you want and, on your keyboard, press Return. Remember, the default until is Megahertz, always written as MHz. Megahertz is a unit of frequency equal to one million hertz.

Frequency pop-up window in CubicSDR

7. To change "Modulation type" or modes, on the top left select AM, FMS, NBFM, AM, LSB, USB, DSB, I/Q. NOAA satellite transmissions are FM, which is the acronym for Frequency Modulation.

8. Adjust the bandwidth. Under the label Bandwidth, click on the upper and lower parts of the numbers.

9. Adjust the audio output volume. In the top left, click and drag the vertical green bar.

10. Select the audio output: click the audio-out dropdown in the top left corner and choose your virtual audio device that you previously setup. In @sophied 's case this is "Soundflower (2ch)".

### Step 4: Set up WXtoImg, your satellite decoding software

Tip: when you first launch WXtoImg, you will be taken through a series of steps to tailor the software to your computer. Go through the steps. Then follow the instructions below.

2. Assigning your Ground Station Location. Select Options > Ground Station Location (you can either search for a city or input your latitude and longitude manually)

Ground station location in WXtoImg

3. Update Keplers. Select File > Update Keplers (It is good to update Keplers before every satellite decoding session to maintain accuracy) (the computer must be connected to the Internet for this to work)

4. Adjusting the Map Overlay settings. Select Options > Map Overlay Options

Tip: You can choose in what colour you would like the map to appear and ground station to appear, or choose to hide them)

5. Adjust the Recording Options: Select Options > Recording Options

• In the dialogue box that appears, select your chosen virtual audio cable. Select Soundcard > [Your Virtual Audio Cable]
• Choose 11025 as the sample rate.
• Input elevation settings for receiving satellite signals; Tip: good settings to begin: maximum elevation above 9 degrees; record only when satellite is above 8 degrees.
• Select what kind of antenna you are using from the Antenna Type list. See image below for recording settings employed by @sashae:

WXtoImg: Recording Options Dialogue Box

6. Checking the Satellite Pass List: Select File > Satellite Pass List. This will generate a window with upcoming times at which NOAA satellites will pass over your ground station location)

### Step 5: Test that WXtoImg can 'hear' your SDR software

1. Tune to an FM radio station (around 100 Mhz) using your preferred SDR software

Tip: Since you are piping the audio coming from the SDR software to WXtoImg with a virtual audio cable you should not be able to hear the station through your computer speakers. If you can hear the station, adjust your Audio Output.

2. In WXtoImg, Select Record > Manual Test.

3. Do lines filled with tiny dots or speckles start loading in the WXtoImg window? If so, WXtoImg can hear your radio software and the audio connection is working.

WXtoImg attempting to decode FM radio static

4. In the bottom right, is the volume level green? If it is 'in the green' this means the signal is in a good range for decoding. If it is not green (e.g. if it is red or yellow) adjust the volume on your SDR software until the WXtoImg volume becomes green.

### Step 6: Decoding an image from a satellite pass

Important to know:

When is the next 'good' satellite pass over your location?

A 'good' pass is a pass that is more than 10 minutes long. In the Satellite Pass list, Duration is measured in minutes. In the Satellite Pass list generated by WXtoImg, find the next 11+ minute pass.

Satellite pass list in WXtoImg

Tip: the list shows Local Time and UTC Time. Take note of the difference.

What direction is the satellite traveling?
In the Satellite Pass List, note whether the satellite is Northbound or Southbound. Also note whether the satellite will be to the east or west of you, and at what maximum elevation. For example: a NOAA 15 Southbound pass at 49W MEL (Maximum Elevation) means the satellite is traveling south and at its max elevation (mid way through the pass) it will be 49 degrees out of 90 (where 90 is directly overhead) to the west. This means that mid way through the pass, you should be aiming your antenna diagonally upward to the west at a 49 degree angle.

What frequency will the satellite be transmitting on?
Make sure to note down the frequency of your chosen satellite pass (see the rightmost column in the Satellite Pass List where Frequency is listed in Mhz).

The transmission is best received from a wide open area with a good horizon. This could be a park, a parking lot, a rooftop, a hill, a beach or a balcony (as long as the balcony has a clear view of the path of the satellite)

### Pre-satellite pass checklist

• Are you tuned to the frequency of the satellite?
• Are you using a 36,000–45,000 KHz bandwidth and demodulating with FM (CubicSDR) or Wide FM (SDR#)
• Is your SDR software sending audio to WXtoImg (see above steps for testing that they can hear each other)?
• Are you pointing your antenna in the right direction?

### Receiving your first satellite transmission

1. A few minutes before the pass is due to start. On WXtoImg Select File > Record > Auto Record; When the satellite passes over the elevation you designated in the Recording Options dialogue box, you should start receiving a signal.

2. The satellite signal looks like a faint series of dots and dashes that will begin to appear on the waterfall display of your SDR software;

Traces in the SDR# waterfall display

3. When you see the satellite signal, adjust the frequency (if needed) so that the SDR / radio software is centred on the signal. This might mean increasing the frequency 1 or 2 MHz

4. Adjust for the Doppler shift. The frequency of the transmission 'drifts' from a little higher than the satellite's designated frequency to a little lower than the designated frequency. During the pass adjust for this Doppler shift by using the arrows or dragging in the waterfall display to keep the radio software centred on the satellite signal.

5. Remember to track the satellite as it orbits overhead. You can let the visible strength of the signal guide you.

Tip: you will see a marked difference in signal strength on the waterfall display if you are pointing the antenna in the right direction vs. the wrong direction.

6. Periodically check WXtoImg to make sure the volume is green and the pass is being decoded.

WXtoImg window: live-decoding a satellite image from NOAA 19

7. When the pass is over, WXtoImg will begin to automatically process the raw data. You will see the software 'working' as it combines information from different sensors to produce a series of b/w and colour images. When it is done processing 'Done' will appear in the bottom left of the window.

8. Stop WXtoImg from waiting for the next satellite by selecting File > Stop.

9. The image you have just received will be stored in the Raw Images tab. You can double click on the raw image of the pass and then use the Enhancements menu to look through the different combinations of sensor data.

10. The raw image and audio file unique to this pass will also be saved in WXtoImg's 'Raw' and 'Audio' folders on your computer.

## Congratulations on your first attempt!

WXtoImg enhancements

## Troubleshooting

My satellite decoding software loads a black image during the test
This means there is something wrong in the connection between your SDR / radio software and WXtoImg. You need to double check all of the connections and virtual audio cables. Double check the Audio Output on your SDR software and the Soundcard (Audio Input) in WXtoImg.

The volume is in the red, close to 0 during the test
This means that the signal coming into WXtoImg is far too quiet for WXtoImg to be able to process it. Turn up the volume on your SDR software. If this doesn't work there may be an issue with the audio inputs and outputs connecting the SDR software to WXtoImg.

On MacOS, check that the Master volume for Soundflower is not turned down.
1. Application > Utilities > Audio MIDI Setup 2. In Audio MIDI Setup, select Soundflower (ch2) 3. Drag the level of the Master volume to the maximum value, usually 1

If you have other issues, questions or concerns do ask a question on the #open-weather project page or get in touch with @sophied and @sashae.

Catching a satellite, London, 2020

blog satellite-imagery barnstar:basic seeks:replications

# Black Lives Matter.

by joyofsoy | over 1 year ago | 0 | 2

Note: this statement was previously shared in our monthly newsletter

Black Lives Matter. Public Lab stands with the millions around the world who have raised their voices in protest of police brutality and systemic injustices toward Black lives. Further, from the expansion of oil and gas facilities in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, to the chronic inaction toward the effects of climate, and the systematic targeting of polluting industries towards BIPOC communities — all stem from a legacy that is rooted in and perpetuated by oppression, racism, and violence.

We commit to supporting Black voices, movements, and organizations. We commit to centering those that have historically been (and continue to be) excluded from science, technology, and environmental decision-making. We commit to maintaining a welcoming community, free from racism, with accessible places of entry into community science that elevate, build, and strengthen the capacities of communities and their leaders to rise. And we commit to dedicating our resources to forefronting leadership from those disproportionately affected by environmental injustices and systemic racism.

Public Lab recognizes and honors the lived experiences and expertise, and strives to build relationships grounded in trust with frontline communities. We envision a future where those most impacted by environmental injustices direct the efforts to protect their communities, collective health, and well-being.

blog

# The Bucket: Updating and open-sourcing a community air monitoring tool

by Shannon | over 1 year ago | 1 | 1

By: Dr. Gwen Ottinger (Fair Tech Collective) and Shannon Dosemagen

The "bucket" is a low-cost, community-friendly air sampler that helps people measure toxic chemicals such as benzene and hydrogen sulfide in their air. Developed in the late 1990s, it was one of the first (if not the very first) do-it-together environmental monitors. Communities living next to oil refineries and petrochemical plants gathered to build their own buckets. They established phone trees to make sure that, when noxious fumes enveloped their neighborhood, someone would take a sample. They used measurements from the samples to hold companies accountable, not only for their emissions but for lying to communities about them.

The buckets were a source of inspiration for each of us, early in our careers. Gwen saw them as a powerful new way that communities could participate in science and challenge the shortcomings of scientists' approaches to understanding pollution. They led her to her dissertation research and inform the conclusions of the book she is currently writing about the role of science in restorative justice. Throughout Shannon's early career, she focused on creating collaborative spaces by connecting people to their local environment using science, art, and media. Attracted to working with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade because of the direct link the organizing model made between science, data, and advocacy, Shannon went on to co-found Public Lab. Her hope was that, in a time of rapid technological innovation, Public Lab could be a vehicle to build on and expand the science and advocacy model into other realms of addressing environmental injustices.

Revisiting the bucket in 2020

Over the past decade, buckets have fallen out of favor. Communities have become more focused on particulate matter, which buckets don't measure, even though toxic chemicals are still a problem. They seek continuous measurements of air pollution, rather than the snapshots of just the worst moments. Regulators are increasingly willing to support community monitoring, but homemade technology has seldom been incorporated into these projects.

All of these trends in air monitoring have their benefits. But the buckets have singular advantages. They are hands-on and highly visible. Their results are easily linked to concrete demands for change. They let people take action in the moments when they may feel the most powerless. They remain an important part of the community monitoring toolkit.

While buckets are still important, the infrastructure for supporting communities in building, deploying, and organizing around them is eroding. The organization Global Community Monitor was a hub for bucket-related resources and expertise, as well as the institutional memory of the bucket brigade movement. Its dissolution in 2016 left a hole that can only partially be filled by regional organizations.

We want to make sure that environmental justice communities continue to have the ability to measure toxic chemicals (as well as particulate matter). With support from the 11th Hour Project, we've launched a project to update and open-source the plans for buckets, to identify best practices for incorporating them into community campaigns, and to create a blueprint for an infrastructure to offer support and mentorship to people who want to use buckets.

We extend deep appreciation to groups such as Global Community Monitor, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Communities for a Better Environment, and the self-organizing and regional bucket brigades around the world, for decades of work building buckets, refining their design, and developing a model for integrating buckets into organizing. We will be building on their work within the infrastructure of Public Lab. That will mean using wiki-based collaborative editing, individual research notes, a question and answer system, and activities, to comprehensively document the bucket tool, the ways in which it can be used, and steps for getting people started. We'll also leverage the social network of Public Lab, which links technologists, scientists, educators, and organizers together to integrate tools like this into strong, collaborative systems that support the efforts of communities impacted by industry.

Through the end of 2020, you can expect to see:

1. An updated and digitized bucket manual: We will be creating a version of the bucket manual that can be easily accessed online, as well as a run of hard copies for distribution. The updated manual will include information and illustrations on building the sampling tool.
2. An open-source bucket design and availability of bucket parts: We will be creating a series of activities and notes that describe both the technical setup and steps for how you can use the bucket to support action-based outcomes.
3. A blueprint for infrastructure supporting a distributed community of trainers: We will identify the landscape of bucket brigades and suggest a framing for a distributed support network. Part of this process will include identifying potential lab partners willing to do air sample analysis of bucket samples.

We encourage everyone to follow along and get involved by subscribing to the "bucket-monitor" tag on Public Lab.

air-quality blog bucket-monitor

# Announcing MapKnitter 3.0

by warren | over 1 year ago | 1 | 5

Over the past year we’ve been working hard on a new system for exporting maps in MapKnitter, and have been beta testing the new “Cloud Exporter” for the past several weeks.

Today we’re shutting down the old exporting system as a part of the full launch of MapKnitter 3.0, and I wanted to offer a little background on this transition.

## Exporting

What is exporting in MapKnitter? Basically, when you upload a bunch of aerial photos -- from a balloon mapping trip, for example -- you have just a collection of images on a map. It’s interactive, and it’s great for viewing online, but there are a variety of reasons you might want to download a single, high resolution combined image of your entire map:

• to print it out
• to use it in a GIS program
• to archive it
• to email it or embed it in a PDF

Folks have been used to being able to download a copy of their map in this way, in JPG, GeoTIFF, or even TMS format. But it hasn’t been easy!

This exporting process can often take HOURS, because it involves processing GIGANTIC images -- it’s not unusual to see a 20,000x20,000 pixel image result from a big map! This was all running on our server, and any time you’ve seen slowness on MapKnitter.org, it’s likely that the website was in the middle of a major export. It’s not a great way to run a website, and it was pretty expensive as well.

## Cloud exporting

What we’ve done is to create a cloud-based exporting service that’s completely separate from MapKnitter.org, and to which we submit jobs, almost like a printer. That means there is no effect on the website speed, and theoretically, you can submit as many jobs as you like, and our system can scale up to handle them. It’s still not free, so please go easy (or consider donating to support our work!) -- but it is pay-as-you-go, so we’re not always paying for a massive server to be online all the time in case someone runs an export. We also incorporated a lot of other improvements. So, what’s changed?

## What are the differences?

• New: each export is now archived in a list, rather than overwriting previous exports
• New: you must select images in order to export, so you can export different parts of your map individually
• New: exports run only on selected images, not all images
• New: where to find the “start export” button (it appears in the upper left once you’ve selected images)
• New: you can run multiple exports at the same time

## What is the same?

• Same: all previous formats are still exported: JPG, GeoTIFF, TMS, ZIP
• Same: closing the page will not stop the export
• Same: privacy (or lack thereof) in anonymous maps was not altered in this release

This release coincides with a LOT of other changes across the entire MapKnitter.org website, many of which came out of last summer’s Google Summer of Code program, and the Google Community Atlas grant we received in 2018-19. These include:

And literally thousands of other changes and refinements, many “under the hood” that you may never notice, but which have been critical to updating the MapKnitter codebase to 2020 and ensuring it is maintainable, sustainable, and reliable for years to come.

Thanks to EVERYONE who helped to make this happen!

balloon-mapping kite-mapping mapknitter software

# Celebrating our tenth anniversary

by joyofsoy | over 1 year ago | 0 | 0