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Published: 2013-03-20 00:00:00

Waipa district will be the latest area to have air quality monitoring equipment installed as part of a Waikato Regional Council programme at selected sites around the region.

Devices measuring one metre by one metre are being installed over the next month in Leamington Domain in Cambridge and Albert Park in Te Awamutu. They will monitor for potentially harmful PM10 particles in the atmosphere, particularly during winter months when more material is burnt for home heating. PM10 consists of particles that are 10 micrometres or less in diameter that can cause human health problems.

The installations will mean 11 out of 20 designated “airsheds” (or areas where PM10 is an actual or potential issue) will now have been subject to monitoring.

“This is a significant expansion in our monitoring network and will help us determine better whether PM10 is at concerning levels in the two towns,” said regional council air quality scientist Dr Jonathan Caldwell.

PM10 comes from burning fuels such as wood, coal or oil from domestic fires, vehicles and industry, as well as natural sources such as sea salt, dust, pollens and volcanic activity.

In most places in New Zealand, levels of PM10 in the air are at their highest in winter months, due to a higher use of domestic fires.

A national environmental standard (NES) for PM10 has been set at 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air when averaged over 24-hours. The standard allows for one exceedance per year.

Regional councils are required to monitor air quality if it is likely that the air quality standard for a contaminant will be breached in an airshed.

The monitoring sites have been selected based on evidence collected from a mobile monitoring survey undertaken over the winter of 2012.

“This mobile monitoring survey indicated that the general locations of Leamington Domain in Cambridge and Albert Park in Te Awamutu had higher levels of PM10 than other areas in those airsheds,” said Dr Caldwell.

“The regional council has no evidence at this stage that the NES air quality standard will actually be breached but we’ve concluded that more detailed on-site monitoring is required for a three-year period.”

The re-use of existing monitoring equipment at Cambridge and Te Awamutu will keep the overall cost of the new monitoring station installations down to about $20,000. This will be met from existing Waikato Regional Council air quality monitoring budgets.

Other current or past PM10 monitoring sites in the region include:

Hamilton (one site in Hamilton East and one site in Hamilton West), Tokoroa, Taupo, Te Kuiti, Putaruru, Turangi, Waihi, Matamata and Ngaruawahia.