Monitoring station goes to open house
City residents asked to choose where to put air monitor
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Apr 05, 2014 06:00 am
City residents will get to help pick a home for their new air quality monitoring station later this month.
City staff will hold open houses on the proposed locations for St. Albert’s air quality monitoring station on April 15 at Paul Kane High School and April 16 at St. Albert Catholic High.
St. Albert got the $250,000 three-by-six metre station from Alberta Environment last year after years of lobbying.
The station is meant to track air pollutants in St. Albert. Information from it will create an air quality index for the city and warn residents of potential health risks.
St. Albert doesn’t always have good air quality, said local air quality consultant David Spink. “It would be nice to know where and how it’s affected, and the only way to know that, of course, is to have a monitoring station.”
This particular station would fill a big gap in the capital region’s monitoring network and help governments manage their growing problem with particulate matter, Spink said. “It’s long overdue.”
The city attempted to place this station next to the Lacombe Park Reservoir last summer, but got shot down by an appeal to the city’s subdivision and development appeal board. The station is now sitting in storage.
The city worked with Alberta Environment over the last year to find alternative spots for the station, said Leah Kongsrude, the city’s director of strategic services.
As this station was meant to be indicative of background conditions in the capital region, the city wanted a site that would best reflect air quality in the city as a whole.
“You don’t want to put it right next to the Anthony Henday,” in other words, Kongsrude said, and you don’t want it in low-lying, pollution-concentrating areas like the river valley. Big tree stands are also out – trees emit volatile organic compounds that can skew readings.
“What we’re really looking for is an area that’s fairly open within an established residential neighbourhood,” Kongsrude said. The station would have to be accessible year-round and have easy access to electrical power.
The open house will feature maps showing the various spots in the city that are well and ill-suited for the monitoring station, Kongsrude said.
Salisbury, Fountain, and Lacombe
The city has narrowed its list down to three possible parks: Salisbury, Fountain, and Lacombe. Notably, it has yet to decide where in those parks the station will go.
Instead, residents at the open house will be asked to place stickers on aerial photos of these parks to indicate where they would like to put the station, Kongsrude said. Residents will also be surveyed as to what sites they prefer.
While residents criticized the Lacombe Park option last year, Kongsrude said this park had the fewest constraints on it and offered the most representative air quality data. Fountain and Salisbury Park were highly accessible, but were also both near major roads (Sir Winston Churchill and St. Albert Trail) that could skew results.
The station would take up a maximum of 15 by 15 metres of fenced area if placed on the ground. Kongsrude said staff considered putting it on a roof, but found that most were either inaccessible year-round (schools) or had polluting exhaust vents (Fountain Park Pool). “The footprint is going to be the same no matter where we put it,” she continued.
“We’re also going to get input on what the trailer itself would look like,” Kongsrude said.
The basic trailer looks like a utility trailer with an instrument tower. That tower would be a thin, triangular structure similar to a television antenna and is mainly used for the anemometre (for wind speed).
Kongsrude said the tower would likely be as tall as a flagpole (six metres), but could be up to 10 metres if there are large buildings nearby.
Staffers hope to put an educational wrap on the station similar in function to the ones on many local power boxes, Kongsrude said. This wrap – the design of which will be at the open house – features cartoon versions of local landmarks on one side and an illustration of the station’s inner workings on the other.
The station will have to be fenced, but it could have a high-quality chain-link fence, Kongsrude said. “We can definitely do shrubs and bushes and landscaping.”
Staff will recommend a site to council this June and hopefully have the station up and running before this winter, Kongsrude said.
Charlene Berard, who led last year’s appeal against the station’s placement in Lacombe Park, said it’s was a much better idea for the city to hold an open house on its location this time around so that people can talk about it.
“I would still not be a fan of it being in a park,” she said, but those seem to be the only spots under consideration. She said she was interested in hearing more about how the station’s look would fit in with the neighbourhood, as that was one of the reasons why it was denied previously.
The open houses run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Residents can also comment online at www.stalbert.ca/air-quality-monitoring.