The Columneetza air quality monitoring station in Williams Lake is being refurbished with work getting underway next week. Photo submitted

Ministry breathes new life into old air quality station

Work will begin Monday, Oct. 16 to refurbish the Columneetza air quality monitoring station in Williams Lake.

Williams Lake’s Columneetza air quality monitoring station is getting a breath of fresh air.

“The construction trailer which houses the station is reaching the end of its life and will be replaced with a new, specially constructed, all metal structure,” Ministry of Environment air quality meteorologist Ralph Adams told the Tribune this week.

A 10-metre tall tower will also be added which will allow the wind instruments currently located at the Canadian Tire building to be moved to the same location as the air quality instruments, Adams said.

Work on the station will begin Monday Oct. 16 and is expected to be completed by Oct. 27 and during that time air quality data will not be available for the lakecity.

“While the station is out of service, the ministry will have a portable fine particulate monitor available in Williams Lake for deployment if air quality deteriorates,” Adams said, noting normally at this time of year, air quality in Williams Lake is usually good.

A special enclosure has been designed for the station that was manufactured on Vancouver Island that is quite a bit smaller than the existing one, Adams explained.

While the work is being done on the foundation, gravel pad and new fence in Williams Lake, the ministry will be building the final stages of the new station in Kamloops and once the infrastructure is ready a crane truck will bring the station to Williams Lake.

During the summer’s wildfires, Williams Lake saw repeated days of very high risk for air quality, with markers reaching in the 30s when normally 10 is the top of the index.

Inside the air station there are two levels of filtration and all the air that goes into the sensors is filtered, Adams said, noting this summer the filters that measure PM10 had to be changed every few days.

“Our technicians were basically run ragged across most of the province keeping all the filters cleaned and the stations running because if you don’t do that as the filters fill up it takes more and more power for the pumps to move the correct amount of air through them and you will actually see pumps failing,” Adams said. “We did see a high level of pump failure because the pumps had to work so hard during the fires.”

The ministry had planned to replace the station in the summer but as soon as the fires started everything had to be put on hold, he said.

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