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Courtenay to create air monitoring network for PM 2.5

A clearer picture of particulate matter in the City of Courtenay’s air will be mapped out with the installation of new monitors.

Courtenay council voted in favour of installing an air monitoring network. This would involve the use of PurpleAir Monitors at several schools and other public locations such as the following:

  • Arden Elementary  
  • Ecole Puntledge Park Elementary 
  • Georges P. Vanier Secondary 
  • Glacier View Secondary  
  • Lake Trail Community School  
  • Mark R. Isfeld Secondary  
  • Queneesh Elementary  
  • Bill Moore Park Lawn Bowling Club  
  • Martin Park Bathrooms  
  • Native Sons Hall 

The monitors that will be installed are recommended because they are an inexpensive way to monitor PM2.5, the particulate of concern. The particulate matter becomes an issue during the winter months with many residents using wood-burning appliances.

“We’ve seen that in the data from the provincial air monitoring station. We have one air monitoring station and we consistently have concentrations of fine particulate matter that exceeds the B.C. air quality objectives,” said Jeanniene Tazzioli, manager of engineering and environmental projects.

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Using laser sensors to monitor particulate, they run on a USB power source and require an internet connection so results can be uploaded to the PurpleAir map for viewing. The numbers are averaged in one hour increments to match the provincial monitoring systems.

“It makes the readings really accessible; residents and members of the public can log on and see what the air monitors are reading in their area at any given time,” said Tazzioli.

A downside of the monitors is that they are sensitive to humidity and their results get inflated. Tazzioli says there is a way around that by using the UNBC map and then they can be compared to the provincial statistics.

The project will also allow for collaboration with the regional airshed protection plan, partnering with residents who privately own the monitors and allow for citizens to grow the network.

Tazzioli adds the monitors are not intended to be used for bylaw enforcement, but rather public awareness.

Councillor Doug Hillian added the monitors will be a good value for money and will also provide different insights into air quality in the area.

“Those who have contested whether air quality is an issue have from time to time argued that the location of the primary government monitoring station was not representative of air quality in other parts of the area,” said Hillian.

“I think this program effectively answers that. It provides us data which to measure whether air quality is a concern but also if we’re doing a decent job of improving it.”

Council voted unanimously in favour of the project. 

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