Two major industrial companies and Scout Island Nature Centre in Williams Lake are teaming up to help monitor the community’s air quality.
Atlantic Power Corp. and Pinnacle Renewable Resources will be purchasing 10 PurpleAir Sensors.
They will be placed in different locations in the Williams Lake valley and will take readings every five seconds for particulate matter PM 2.5
“They are very commonly used,” said Terry Shannon, EHS manager for Atlantic Power. “They are tested by universities and have been used in B.C. for a lot of years.”
PurpleAir Sensors cost about $300 each and measure about 10 centimetres high and nine cm wide.
Shannon said the sensors should be installed by the end of the year.
Data from the sensors will be uploaded on an air quality website run by the University of Northern British Columbia.
Dr. Peter Jackson, professor of environmental sciences at UNBC, said the website, cyclone.unbc.ca/aqmap was developed two and half years ago by Brayden Nilson, a masters student at UNBC from Fort St. John.
There is a map on the website with several layers that uploads air quality data from government air quality monitoring stations as well as PurpleAir Sensors across Canada and bordering U.S. states.
That way viewers can compare the official monitoring from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy with the PurpleAir sensors that people have in different places.
“We have also developed a calibration or correction to make the PurpleAir data closer to the gold standard government monitoring data because PurpleAir tends to read a little bit high. The monitors work really well, but the calibration is a little bit different,” Jackson said, noting the government monitors are much more costly and accurate.
About 50 PurpleAir monitors have been put into Prince George by Jackson working with Environment Canada to try understand the spacial variability of pollution.
“On our map we have the environment’s monitoring station in Williams Lake and one PurpleAir, it’s called The Shire.”
Referring to the map on Tuesday, Aug. 17, he said the environment station showed a PM 2.5 reading of six micrograms per cubic metre and the PurpleAir monitor [located near Pinchbeck Street) showed a PM 2.5 reading of two micrograms per cubic metre.
A spokesperson for Pinnacle, which is part of the Drax Group, said they are participating in the year-long PurpleAir initiative and support the work to assess the overall air quality in Williams Lake.
“This effort will help provide important information to the community and the Williams Lake Air Quality roundtable which we are a member of.”
Pinnacle monitors its own emissions regularly and has made significant investments at the Williams Lake plant to improve efficiency and improve air quality, the company noted in some background information it provided.
Sue Hemphill, with Scout Island Nature Centre said the centre will be finding the homes and businesses to place the monitors in and help set them up.
“We hope the information from these monitors will add to the community’s awareness of air quality in our air shed,” Hemphill said. “Our goal is to promote actions that result in good air quality for all who are dependent on oxygen for respiration.”