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Air quality monitoring continues in Alexandra

Air quality monitoring continues in Alexandra

Teachers and pupils at Alexandra Primary School are excited to have the Otago Regional Council’s air quality monitor for the town at its new location in the school grounds.

ORC had to remove the monitor from its previous location at 65 Ventry Street when the land on which it was located was sold. However, the monitor was recently re-commissioned on the school site at 5 Ventry Street, much to the delight of teachers and pupils.

The school’s deputy principal, Tiffany Kemp, said they felt fortunate to have the monitor there.

“We look forward to growing and learning together, since as we are a community-based school we see the benefits that the air monitor will have for our students. We can learn from the experts, and students can continue this learning by taking their knowledge home and sharing with their families about how we can be mindful of air quality,” Mrs Kemp said.

“We are excited for the rich learning opportunities it will offer us. Our Enviroschools group is interested in the possibilities offered by having the station so close - we will be able to see the results of the data that is collected hourly by ORC and look at patterns and what we can do about it.”

ORC intermittently monitored air quality at the previous Ventry Street location from 1998 to 2005. Since 2005, hourly readings have been taken continuously. With such a long period of data, ORC has developed a good understanding of air quality in the older residential areas of town and has seen an improvement in air quality over the last 10 years.

The new location will reflect pollution levels in a more open, commercial/residential area and will provide more information about the town’s air quality as a whole.

The re-commissioning of the monitor coincides with the start of ORC’s winter monitoring in Otago.

Generally, air quality in Otago is good for most of the year. During winter however, temperatures drop and home-heating emissions increase. Coupled with cold and calm weather conditions, this leads to poor air quality, particularly in areas of Central Otago.

Dunedin, Mosgiel, Alexandra, and Arrowtown are monitored year-round, while Milton, Balclutha, Clyde, and Cromwell, are monitored during winter only.

In Alexandra and the other Otago towns ORC monitors, the main source of PM10 (suspended smoke particles which affect air quality) is from domestic heating appliances. PM10 are suspended particles in the air that are smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter. These particle concentrations peak during winter mornings and evenings - times of the day when it is coldest, and when there is little to no wind.

Daily PM10 concentrations in Alexandra regularly exceed guidelines in the National Environmental Standard for air quality and rules in the Otago Air Plan from May until August but are relatively low during the rest of the year. Over the last 12 years, winter concentrations have decreased about 30%.

ORC is continuing to offer financial assistance this winter through the Clean Heat, Clean Air programme so homeowners throughout Otago can apply to convert from their older, inefficient wood burners to newer burners which meet the national and regional standards.

Work is under way on an air quality strategy for Otago to help develop policies to minimise pollution throughout the region.


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