Air Quality Monitoring Network

The regional Air Quality Monitoring (AQM) Program commenced operation in 2002, developed in accordance with Alberta’s Clean Air Strategy.

PAZA’s ambient air monitoring program was implemented to provide scientifically credible air quality data to assess short and long term air quality on a regional scale. It is designed to respond to local and regional air quality issues and concerns in relation to human and ecosystem health.

The goal of the monitoring program is to collect reliable, representative, scientifically credible data in an efficient and economically sustainable manner and to ensure the data is available and easily accessible to all stakeholders.

What happens to the data?

The monitoring stations are operated in accordance with Alberta’s Air Monitoring Direc- tive. All data undergoes a rigorous quality assurance and quality control program, includ- ing daily equipment checks, monthly multipoint calibrations, and annual government audits conducted by Alberta Environment. PAZA also conducts frequent data review for variances and trends.

The data is compared against Alberta Ambient Air Quality Objectives (AAAQO) as defined in the Alberta Environment Protection and Enhancement Act. The AAAQO are intended to provide protection of the environment and human health. PAZA reports any exceedences of AAAQO and submits monthly and annual air quality monitoring reports to Alberta Environment.

PAZA also provides near instantaneous air quality data for public viewing online (Silverlight plugin required). For the calculation of the Air Quality Index (AQI) measurements, PAZA submits up to the hour data to Alberta Environment. The AQI is updated hourly, 24-hours-a-day, and can be viewed on our website and the Alberta Environment website.

Data Validation/Checks:

Daily:

Automatic Zero/Span: Analyzer self-tests by measuring the baseline level, allowing for correction of any bias in the data due to a non-zero baseline. The analyzer then tests at a known, high concentration (“span”) to verify that the analyzer responds to the introduction of the compound of interest and that it responds as expected.

Technician review: A technician with the operations contractor reviews the previous 72 hours of data on a daily basis to verify regular operation of the station and triggers action if appropriate.

Monthly:

Calibration: Stations are attended every calendar month at minimum to check normal operation and conditions as well as to calibrate instrumentation. Instruments are “challenged” with known concentrations of gasses and the outcome of these tests used to correct the raw data.

Quality Assurance/Quality Control and Reporting: Data analyst reviews the previous month of data for invalid data, applies baseline corrections suggested by the daily zero/spans as well as adjustments due to monthly calibrations, both as noted above. Data reports are generated and the data submitted to the CASA Data Warehouse, where another review is conducted by automated systems before acceptance.

Yearly:

Audit: An auditor from Alberta Environment attends each station with the operations contractor to independently verify the station and analyzers are being operated in conformance with the Air Monitoring Directive.

In addition, the Grande Prairie Henry Pirker and Beaverlodge stations are part of the National Air Pollution Surveillance Program, which monitors and assesses the quality of outdoor air in populated regions of Canada.

What affects air quality?

Air quality can be impacted by many sources both through human activity and natural phenomenon.

  • Point Sources: factories, industry, power plants, home and business heating and cooling
  • Mobile Sources: transportation, vehicles, aircraft
  • Natural Sources: trees, vegetation, wetlands, gas seeps, forest fires
  • Area Sources: small sources, BBQs, firepits, drycleaners, pesticide use

In addition to wind speed and direction and important meteorological parameters that affect the transport and dispersion of air, monitoring at the stations is based on what is expected to be present in an area and available technology. For example, monitoring stations in urban centres typically measure for Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, Par- ticulate Matter, and Ozone, the parameters commonly associated with vehicle emissions and home heating and cooling. In an industrial area we may monitor for Sulphur Dioxide, Total Reduced Sulphurs, Hydrogen Sulphides, Total Hydrocarbons, Methane, Non-Methane or Fine Particulate Matter, depending on the industry. In rural areas we may monitor for Particulate Matter, Ozone, or Nitrogen Oxides.

What does PAZA monitor?

Passively monitored parameters:

  • Sulphur dioxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Ozone
  • Hydrogen sulphide

Continuously monitored parameters :

  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
  • Total reduced sulphur (TRS)
  • Hydrogen sulphide (H2S)
  • Oxides of nitrogen (NO2, NO and NOX),
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Total hydrocarbons (THC)
  • Methane (MHC)
  • Non-Methane (NmHC)
  • Ozone (O3)
  • Fine particulate matter (PM2.5)

Meteorological parameters (that affect the transportation and dispersion of compounds):

  • Wind speed and direction
  • Solar Radiation
  • Outdoor Temperature
  • Relative Humidity