City debates home for air monitor
Three parks meet Alberta Environment criteria
Saturday, Apr 19, 2014 06:00 am
City residents weighed in this week on which park, if any, should become home to the city’s first ever air quality monitoring station.
City staffers held two open houses this week on the proposed locations for St. Albert’s new air quality monitoring station.
About 25 residents attended the first open house Tuesday at Paul Kane High School.
The city got the station in 2012 and currently has it sitting in storage, said Brent Korobanik, chair of the St. Albert environmental advisory committee (EAC) and board member with the Alberta Capital Airshed group.
“There’s a big gap in our current air monitoring,” he said.
St. Albert is the only Alberta city of greater than 50,000 people that doesn’t have a permanent station, and the station closest to the city is near Edmonton’s Westmount Mall.
“Everyone wants to know what they’re breathing,” Korobanik said.
This station will provide real-time air pollution information used to calculate the air quality health index and help residents track changes in pollution.
The station itself resembles an Atco utility trailer, Korobanik said. It will be fenced, and it will have a tower with an air sampler on it.
“It’s pretty much just a tube with a little whirlybird on top,” he said.
Displays suggested that the trailer itself would measure three by six metres by about two metres tall, and topped by a thin tower for the air sampler. This tower could be anywhere from three to six metres tall, depending on the unit’s location.
The station would take up a maximum of 15 by 15 metres of fenced area, and would likely feature a decorative wrap. It may also be screened by vegetation.
Residents answered surveys and put stickers on maps to show where they wanted the station to go.
“We can’t just put a station anywhere,” Korobanik explained, as buildings, valleys, tree stands, tall hills, construction, water bodies and heavy traffic can all affect air readings. That makes much of St. Albert, including the northwest annexed lands, both industrial parks, and anywhere near St. Albert Trail or the Sturgeon River unsuitable as a location.
Once you factor in these and Alberta Environment’s other requirements, the only place you can really put a station like this is in a park, Yanew said.
Air testing previously conducted suggests that Larose Park, Salisbury Park and Fountain Park could all work.
Officials did ask several schools if they wanted to host the station, Yanew added. The schools declined, as it could affect their future expansion plans.
Marian Zajac, who lives in Lacombe, opposed putting the station in Larose Park as he wasn’t a fan of its appearance.
“It’s probably taller than any other building in this area,” he said.
Hundreds of children pass through this area, and he was concerned that one of them could get hurt playing around the station.
“I’m pretty sure sooner or later it will be vandalized,” he added.
Fellow resident Gary Comber expressed concern that the station would affect his enjoyment of the park.
“Our kids and grandkids play there.”
He suggested putting it behind Servus Credit Union Place instead.
“They could fit five of these in there.”
Yanew said the city did consider that spot but ruled it out because it was in a fast-growing industrial area that could be home to pollution-emitting companies. Red Deer put one of its stations in a similar area and now gets high pollution readings as a result, he said.
Ken Crutchfield, who sits on the environmental advisory committee, said he has no problem with any of the sites.
“I would get more upset about the location of a mailbox than I would this,” he said.
Crutchfield said the station would be an “insignificant, almost benign” intrusion on a public space, and would provide residents with useful information about their air.
“It’d be kind of neat to know what the air quality is like that your kids are breathing there on that field,” he said.