Portable air quality stations yield interesting data

By James Peters / Chad Harris
January 23, 2017 - 4:00pm

KAMLOOPS — A Thompson Rivers University professor studying air quality in Kamloops says portable air quality stations set up last fall are already yielding interesting results.

Dr. Michael Mehta says the readings shown by his Purple Air monitoring stations set up around the city are very diverse.

Mehta adds that illustrates the provincial government's method of using only two monitoring stations is inadequate.

"We actually have a very volatile, and constantly changing airshed in this community. It's not just one airshed either, it's highly variable depending on where you are. That is quite interesting, because the province's air quality monitoring approach has been based on putting one or two monitors in a city like this — we have two here currently — and making conclusions about the air quality on an hourly averaging basis."

He says the more stations, the better information.

"I think that this technology, and the ability for everyday people also to log into the website, gives us the ability to make better choices about our own risk exposures to really people peoples health first."

Mehta notes this morning, his stations measured a burst of particulate matter that began in the west and moved its way through the city.

"Today we saw some interesting changes happening around 11, 11:30 in the morning, where on the west side of the city pollution started to build quite dramatically. It moved across Kamloops, and as it moved across the city it elevated our readings on our various sensors."

He says it probably originated from the Domtar pulp mill, but he can't be completely certain.

"It was also visible, one could see, for example, from the university's location, the haze coming across the city from that spot, and of course the smell was evident as well. We do know that upwards of 80 per cent of emissions from a pulp and paper operation are particulate matter, which is what these sensors measure."

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