There are plans for three passive monitoring stations in the Bow Valley in a bid to get a better handle on the region’s air quality.
Members of the Calgary Region Airshed Zone (CRAZ) monitoring group were recently before Banff town council to ask them to buy a membership in support of their work.
At a cost of about $100,000, CRAZ is on the verge of installing 30 passive monitoring stations across the region in the hope of gathering baseline information.
Paul Adams, the group’s chairman, said this program would provide information on air quality for areas in the region where no monitoring has ever been conducted.
“What’s coming over the Great Divide from B.C.? We don’t really know, but we’re going to start measuring just to see,” he said.
“As haze occurs in places like Toronto, when you get to a certain level, certain things happen. We want to take steps now to avoid that kind of thing in the future in our region.”
The region covers a broad area, including the bigger cities of Calgary and Airdrie, as well as smaller communities like Canmore and Banff National Park.
Some of the bigger issues related to air quality include Particulate Matter (PM) and Ozone (03), which are known to have significant adverse affects on human health and the environment.
Exposure to either can lead to irritated eyes and respiratory tract, they are linked to asthma, bronchitis, acute and chronic respiratory symptoms and exposure to high levels result in chest tightness, coughing and wheezing.
In addition, they can also contribute to acid rain formation, agricultural crop loss and noticeable leaf damage.
CRAZ currently has three continuous monitoring sites in Calgary.
The exact locations for the three Bow Valley passive monitoring sites have not been finalized, but there is talk one will be near the Trans-Canada Highway at the Norquay Road interchange in Banff National Park.
“With all the heavy traffic coming by east and west on the Trans-Canada Highway, ozone and particulate matter is an issue here,” said Adams.
CRAZ’s plan is to measure air quality throughout the region for about two years to gather baseline data, which will help determine where there are hotspots.
After that, the group wants to purchase a Mobile Air Monitoring Lab (MAML), which are specially equipped vehicles that can provide immediate air quality snapshots on location.
Typically, these units carry air sampling equipment and a Global Positioning System (GPS), allowing it to sample at specified time or distance intervals, and analyze samples immediately.
Council will likely discuss the membership, which is based on a cost of 10 cents per capita, during 2012 budget deliberations later this year.
To find out more about the program, go to www.craz.ca