Corpus Christi Pollution Levels Low; University Initiative Piece of the Puzzle

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Houston and Corpus Christi – two coastal and industrial cities with similar geographies, but very different levels of air quality. What, then, sets these two cities apart?

The answer is simple: Corpus Christi is less industrially developed and has important initiatives in place to improve air quality while reducing smog, or ozone – a pollutant that can cause negative health effects ranging from asthma to heart disease.

“You can think of ozone as something that causes a ‘sunburn’ on your lungs when breathed in,” said Trent Thigpen, program manager for the Pollution Prevention Partnership (P3), a program within the Office of Community Outreach at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “Because of this ‘sunburn,’ you end up with fluid and irritation in your lungs and cardiovascular stress.”

As the City continues to grow, it becomes imperative to continue P3 efforts such as the long-running AutoCheck program. Unfortunately, AutoCheck, which tests Corpus Christi residents’ vehicles for emissions, was recently in jeopardy when it lost State funding, as did all near non-attainment cities in Texas.

That’s when the Port of Corpus Christi, recognizing the importance of this program, stepped in to provide temporary support through the end of December 2018. Now, the Port of Corpus Christi has become a major source of funding allowing AutoCheck to continue while Thigpen seeks additional grants. This move comes on the heels of an increased partnership between Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and the Port of Corpus Christi – one that Thigpen and other University officials are excited to continue.

“The P3 program started over 20 years ago. It has a long history of connecting the campus with our community at large,” said Dr. Ahmed Mahdy, interim vice president for the Division of Research, Commercialization and Outreach. “Collaboration between the Island University and the Port of Corpus Christi on this and other projects promotes economic development and the greater good of the region.”

Since the Port of Corpus Christi initiated funding in June 2018, the AutoCheck program has participated in 18 events for public emissions tests, health fairs, and educational presentations reaching over 1,000 people. It’s an important statistic considering vehicles make up about 30 percent of our ozone pollution. According to Thigpen, the most significant part of these programs is educating the community.

“Everyone who drives a vehicle has a responsibility to our air quality because burning fuel causes pollution,” said Thigpen. “When everyone does their part, all the small pieces come together to help us continue to have clean air in Corpus Christi for years to come.”