Carmarthenshire county council has installed new technology to track air pollution levels as part of its work to reduce nitrogen dioxide from traffic in its Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).
Although situated in a largely rural area of South Wales, major roads pass through larger towns in Carmarthenshire such as Llanelli, Carmarthen and Llandeilo, where the council monitoring has identified nitrogen dioxide – mainly from diesel vehicles – as being a problem.
The county council has operated a network of five passive diffusion tubes to conduct statutory air quality monitoring as part of its Air Quality Action Plan to tackle pollution levels, but it has also recently installed new monitoring technology provided by manufacturer Air Monitors.
The draft AQAP has identified a number of options to improve air quality, and the Air Monitor’s AQMesh monitoring technology has been installed in order to help assess the success or failure of each initiative.
The council is seeking to reduce NO2 by around 25 microgrammes per cubic metre, and options considered as part of the action plan include improving traffic management by preventing vehicular ‘stop/start’ and promoting a smooth flow of traffic, as well as the provision of extra parking outside the AQMA, the relocation of bus stops and reviewing pedestrian crossings.
The new technology can also monitor ozone, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure. According to Air Monitors, the technology can also provide near real-time data over the internet, which can be made available for people on smartphones, tablets and computers.
Oliver Matthews, one of the Carmarthenshire’s environmental health practitioners who is operating the AQMesh said the monitors could be attached to the likes of lamp posts and on the side of houses.
He said: “In the past we have not continuously monitored this range of parameters because doing so would have involved the installation of a large, expensive air quality monitoring station that would have probably required planning permission.
“Alternatively, we could install passive diffusion tubes, one for each parameter of interest, but the disadvantage of this method is that the tubes are left in place for four to five weeks, so we are only provided with an average figure over that time, with no indication of the peaks and troughs that occur. For example, a recent road closure resulted in the diversion of traffic and, with the benefit of AQMesh, we were able to track a significant short-term rise in NO2.”
Mr Matthews added: “The network of diffusion tubes has enabled us to identify hotspots, and these are the locations at which the AQMesh will be of greatest use because we will be able to study trends and look for the causes of elevated pollution levels at specific times of the day.”