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November 8, 2004
For immediate release

Province Expands Air Quality Monitoring

Environment, Energy & Forestry

The Province has made major improvements to its air quality monitoring network to provide more information to protect the health of Islanders.

Minister of Environment, Energy and Forestry Jamie Ballem unveiled an expanded monitoring station at Southampton Monday. A new building was erected this year to make room for three pieces of new equipment: an acid rain collector; a fine particulate monitor which generates data on a continuous, or real-time, basis; and a ground-level ozone analyzer. Ground level ozone and fine particulate matter are the two main components of smog.

“We are fortunate in Prince Edward Island in that we do not experience the smog conditions that you hear about in cities like Toronto. However, because PEI is downwind of industrialized areas in the northeastern United States and central Canada, we do receive pollution from these areas,” said Minister Ballem.

“Providing accurate and timely information on air quality is important, particularly for Islanders with asthma and other respiratory conditions. Having easy access to this information allows these people to take steps to minimize the impacts of poor air quality on their health such as avoiding physical activity or staying indoors.”

PEI has three air quality monitoring stations, one in each county. In addition to the Southampton station, others are located in Charlottetown and Wellington. They are part of the National Air Pollution Surveillance program, a cooperative program operated by the federal government and the provinces and territories to collect and distribute air quality data throughout the country. Under the terms of an air quality monitoring agreement, Environment Canada provides some of the PEI monitoring equipment. In return, the Province operates and maintains the equipment and shares the monitoring data with Environment Canada.

The information collected at the monitoring stations is used to produce Environment Canada’s PEI Air Quality Forecast – formerly known as the Smog Forecast. The data is also provided to the United States Environmental Protection Agency which generates real-time maps of ozone and fine particulate for the New England States and Eastern Canada.

The additional equipment at Southampton, as well as improvements at the Charlottetown and Wellington Monitoring Stations, will improve the PEI Air Quality Forecast next spring. Last year, older sulphur dioxide and ozone analyzers in Charlottetown were replaced with new equipment which provides more accurate and reliable data. As well, equipment to monitor fine particulate on a continuous basis was installed this fall, and a new nitrogen oxides analyzer will be added before the end of the year. In Wellington, a continuous fine particulate monitor and nitrogen oxides analyzer will be installed next summer.

As the next step, Minister Ballem said the Province plans to use the data from its three monitoring stations to produce an Air Quality Index (AQI) that would be available to Islanders on the PEI web site.

“While the air quality forecast predicts whether air quality on a given day will be good, fair, poor or very poor, the Air Quality Index would tell Islanders exactly what the air quality is right now. It would be similar to the UV index which provides information on UV levels using a numbered scale and classifications from low to extreme,” the Minister explained. “This will be a valuable tool to help Islanders who are vulnerable to the affects of poor air quality better manage their health.”

Improvements in the PEI Air Quality Monitoring Network fulfill the Province’s commitments under several national and international agreements, including the Acid Rain Action Plan and the Mercury Action Plan of the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, and the Canada-wide Standards for Particulate Matter and Ozone agreed to by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.

Information on air quality can be found on the provincial government web site at www.gov.pe.ca/go/smog.

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Media Contact: Sandra Lambe
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