Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Vinet inaugurates Air Quality Testing Stations in Gibraltar

* Air quality an integral part of the environment, says minister

Minister for the Environment Fabian Vinet yesterday made the formal presentation of Gibraltar’s Air Quality Monitoring Programme and the two state of the art stations that will provide an EU compliant framework for the management and assessment of air quality on the Rock.

Speaking to the Chronicle during the official inauguration, Mr Vinet expressed his satisfaction with the new equipment, and reiterated the Gibraltar Government’s commitment to improve air quality in compliance with legal obligations.

“This project is very positive news and honours a GSD manifesto pledge. I trust the public will recognise the importance we attach to environmental issues,” he said.

The Minister also explained that the two stations had the capacity to monitor air quality in an area of 250,000 inhabitants and be in compliance with pertinent EU directives, so Gibraltar was “extremely well” covered in this respect.

The first station is located within the Gibraltar Electricity Authority compound at the north end of Rosia Road while the second can be found at Bleak House car park. Both stations will also produce their own individual meteorological data as regards wind direction, temperature and other climatological conditions that can be relevant in particular readings.

The Gibraltar Government has made a significant financial investment in the purchase and maintenance of this sophisticated equipment, estimated at over £150,000.

Mr Vinet said that although legally Gibraltar is required to install just the one station two had been installed.

According to experts (Netcen from the UK), monitoring ought to be located on a major road and close to key power generation point sources (MoD and OESCO generating stations) and shipping emissions, (Cammell Laird, Naval Base and the Bay), with another at a suburban/rural background location.

Those recommendations were accepted by Government and an agreement was entered into with the Environmental Agency for the procurement of the equipment and associated infrastructure.

Mr Vinet also recognised the expertise and assistance of the Environmental Agency who have worked closely with the Ministry for the Environment and Government generally in setting up this programme of air quality monitoring.

The Air Quality Web Site

Actual monitoring commenced several weeks ago but today’s presentation coincides with the launch of the website for the public dissemination of information.

The site – which can be accessed by logging on to www.gibraltarairquality.gi - allows the general public to view daily updates of air quality measured by the stations, together with a summary of the current pollution levels, a data-download facility and information on the health effects of pollutants.

The dedicated website is groundbreaking locally in terms of the detailed information it contains and the speed at which that information is updated. It is a user-friendly, visually attractive, reliable website designed to meet the needs of the general public by providing rapid access to the very latest data. It also allows for access to archived information, which explains why the website has been launched after several weeks of monitoring, specifically so that the public could already access that archived material and begin to see any possible patterns emerging.

The latest up-to-date hourly measurements of air pollution are reported to the general public using an easy to understand 1-10 air pollution index system. The categories range from LOW to VERY HIGH air pollution with associated advice on health effects and what precautions may be taken to protect health.

The meteorological data will be updated on the webpage each and every hour. Users are not only able to view data and statistics on the website itself, but they can enter an e-mail address so that results are sent to them automatically within minutes. This reliable information enables the direct comparison with the objectives set by the relevant legislation.

Data from automatic monitoring sites will be available on-line from the database within 1 hour of the data being collected; for non-automatic monitoring sites and gravimetric particulate samplers, results will be uploaded quarterly. Users will be able to download measured data or statistics to the screen of their PC, or enter an e-mail address so that results are sent to them within minutes.

24 Hour Air Monitoring

The station within the Gibraltar Electricity Authority compound will automatically and continuously monitor sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, benzene and carbon monoxide and update results on the web page at hourly intervals.

Particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and lead are collected on sample filters which are exchanged automatically every 24 hours. The filters are then sent for analysis on a 4 weeks rotation and results will be updated on the web page at quarterly intervals.

The second monitoring station at Bleak House car park will perform the same function in respect of nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen and ozone concentrates and will also update results on the web page at hourly intervals.

Legal Requirements

EU Directives establish a framework under which limit or target values regulating specified ambient air pollutants can be set for Europe. Directives also set out objectives for ambient air quality in the Community and are designed to prevent or reduce harmful effects on human health and the environment as a whole. The pollutants in question are sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter, lead, benzene, carbon monoxide and ozone in ambient air.

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