Salisbury Park chosen for air quality station
Long homeless data gathering installation could be operating by fall
Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 06:00 am
Vital Grandin students may soon have a high-tech toy to play with now that city council has decided to put its first air quality monitoring station in Salisbury Park.
Council moved unanimously at its regular meeting Monday to put St. Albert’s new air quality monitoring station in Salisbury Park.
Once built, the station will provide residents with real-time air pollution information used to calculate the air quality health index and help track changes in pollution.
The $250,000 station has been homeless since last summer when an appeal to the city’s subdivision and development appeal board sank the city’s plans to put it in Larose Park.
That prompted a pair of open houses earlier this year to explore alternative sites for the station.
An expert panel identified 10 possible spots for the station. That got narrowed down to Larose, Salisbury, Fountain and Bellerose parks, with Bellerose dropping off the list as the station could interfere with the high school’s expansion plans, said city environmental co-ordinator Jeff Yanew in an interview.
Field tests confirmed that Larose, Salisbury and Fountain Park all met the province’s minimum standards for a monitoring site, Yanew said. Fountain Park would likely be influenced by its heavily used parking lot, however, while Salisbury could be skewed by its proximity to St. Albert Trail.
A survey of 21 people conducted during the open house events found that about nine (43 per cent) preferred Larose Park as the station’s location. Salisbury came in second with five votes (24 per cent).
But Salisbury was also the only site where respondents said they actually wanted the station, city strategic services director Leah Kongsrude told council. Putting the station in Larose would almost certainly trigger another legal challenge from residents.
Salisbury is probably the best spot for the station as a result, Yanew said.
“It’s just not the best for representative air quality data,” he added – it will show the city’s air at its worse instead of at its most average.
The station will be located directly behind the Sturgeon pump station/reservoir next to Vital Grandin school. There’s also a baseball diamond at the site. The station will be inside the dirt access road that rings the reservoir.
The station will be small enough to fit into two parking stalls and shorter than a two-storey house or flagpole, Yanew said. It will look like a utility trailer and have a thin three-to-six metre tall instrument tower on top.
Most of the station won’t be visible from the street but the city plans to wrap it with educational graphics and possibly shrubs, Yanew said.
It will also need to be surrounded by a chain-link fence that could cover a 7.5-by-7.5 to 15-by-15 metre patch of land.
“We’d probably want to keep that footprint as close as possible to the station,” Yanew told council.
This station was originally meant to pick up air representative of that found in most of St. Albert (such as that found in Larose Park) so it could act as a baseline for other stations in the capital region.
Yanew said the station could still do this job – it might be skewed by the trail, but it won’t be skewed by nearby industrial sites (since there aren’t any).
Local air quality consultant David Spink said Salisbury was an appropriate spot for this station.
“No one location is ideal for everything,” he said.
Spink said the station will likely pick up elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide (NOx) due to its proximity to St. Albert Trail, but this could be a positive, as it could encourage officials to act on air pollution sooner.
St. Albert should actually have two stations, he argued: one in a downtown, high-pollution spot and one in a cleaner spot to show background conditions.
City staffers will now apply for a development permit to build the station, Yanew said. If the permit is approved, the station could be up and running by this fall.