Residents in Fort Saskatchewan and the surrounding area can continue to breathe easy.
The Fort Air Partnership (FAP) recently released its 2018 first quarter Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) results. The FAP reported that for the first three months of the year, air quality in the Industrial Heartland region was a low risk to health the majority of the time.
The FAP reports air quality in four categories ranging from low risk to very high risk. From Jan.1 to Mar.31, six of the FAP's continuous air monitoring stations recorded low risk readings at least 73 percent of the time. Only 27 of a total 12,628 monitored hours had high risk readings, and none of the stations recorded readings in the very high risk range. Of the monitored areas, Lamont County had the highest percentage of low risk readings and Fort Saskatchewan had the lowest.
FAP executive director Nadine Blaney said that the weather plays a role in air quality.
“We've had a higher than usual number of days this quarter with weather conditions conducive to temperature inversions, which means that a layer of cold air is trapped near ground level by a layer of warmer air above it, which traps pollutants at ground level and then that leads to higher risk air quality health index ratings,” she said.
The first quarter of 2018 saw a higher percentage of time spent in the moderate risk category compared to the first quarter of 2017. The FAP also reported a small percentage increase in high risk hours in the first three months of 2018 versus the same time period last year.
“That's really due to those wintertime temperature inversions," added Blaney. "And also, in the wintertime we see an increase in emissions from things like home heating, fireplaces, and idling vehicles. And that all contributes to increased levels of pollutants and things like particulate matter which increase the air quality health index ratings."
The FAP monitors air quality in a 4,500 square kilometre airshed north and east of Edmonton. It collects data 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the Government of Alberta calculating the AQHI using the gathered data.