South Wales local authority to continue air quality work and 2012 data shows some improvements, writes Will Date.
Neath Port Talbot county borough council is taking steps to address concerns about air quality in the area, issuing an action plan to combat excessive levels of particulate matter PM10.
And, the area has also been a particular focus of the Environment Agency which has recently produced a report on particulate concentrations in Port Talbot covering the whole of 2011. It found that the Tata steelworks at Port Talbot appeared to be contributing to the PM10 levels.
The report noted: â€œdirectional analysis indicated a source of PM10 from the direction of the steel works that gave rise to highly elevated PM10 concentrations.â€
And, the Agency also suggested that a particular process at the steelworks might be causing some the higher particulate levels.
It said: â€œBoth the PM10 and PM2.5 data shows an elevated continuous source between 250â€“260 deg which may suggest that the source is due to a process on site in addition to fugitive sources.â€
Neath Port Talbot has an air quality management area (AQMA) in the Taibach Margam district in the south of the county, where readings of particulate matter PM10 were found to be high. More than 50 monitoring stations have been set up since 2002 to take regular readings of air quality in the area.
EU ambient air quality limits state that the concentration of particulate matter PM10 must not exceed 50 microgram/m3 in an urban area on more than 35 days per calendar year.Historically Neath Port Talbot has seen high levels of PM10 in the air, with the area found to exceed the limit on 62 times in 199, however since steps have been taken to improve air quality, this has significantly decreased.
And, the Environment Agency told AirQualityNews that provisional January to April 2012 data from the Prince Street mobile monitoring unit â€“ which is key to monitoring PM10 exceedences â€“ â€œindicates that the PM10 concentrations are reduced compared with the same period in 2011.â€
Since the passing of the Air Quality Directive in 2005, Neath Port Talbot has only breached the level once, with 42 exceedences measured in 2007, although it did come close in 2006, when 34 exceedences were reported.
In order to continue to improve its air quality in the area, the council has developed the new action plan alongside input from the Environment Agency, the Welsh government, the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Local Health Board and Public Health Wales.Neath Port Talbot county borough council has pledged to address concerns over air quality.
Geoff White, head of planning at Neath Port Talbot, said: â€œThe council has specific responsibilities under Local Air Quality Management, whereas the steel works is regulated by the Environment Agency. Both organisations have cooperated for some considerable time with operators on the steel works site to try to understand and resolve PM10 problems.
He added:Â â€œThe Environment Agency and Tata have identified a list of improvements that have been prioritised for implementation under the permits. Some of these improvements have already been implemented and others are in the programme for implementation.â€
The Environment Agency report, Study of Particulate Concentrations at Port TalbotÂ 01January 2011 â€“ 31 December 2012, identified an area around the Tata Steelworks in Margam, south of Port Talbot as having the highest levels of particulate matter. As such the 2012 air quality plan seeks to address this, tasking the operators of the site with an on-site measurement programme and air monitoring reviews.
The Environment Agency and Tata have also identified a number of improvements to the site that need carrying out to reduce the level of emissions being given off around the site, which are currently being implemented.
Other measures to improve the management of air quality in the county have been put forward by Defraâ€™s Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) including the installation of a Filter Dynamics Measurement System (FDMS) up-wind of the heavily industrialised area, in order to measure the impact of this area without interference from background PM10.
The council has also agreed under the plan that the air quality monitoring sites will be retained for a minimum of a further two years.
The Environment Agency regulates the Tata steelworks as well as a number of other large industrial units within the Port Talbot area. In 2009, it reviewed the permits of all the businesses it regulated in Port Talbot and put in place a number of changes to the site operations to actively reduce PM10 emissions.
A spokeswoman for the Agency explained: â€œIn 2010, we arranged with the Welsh Government to place our mobile monitoring facility to record air quality at Prince Street, Port Talbot, to help us regulate industry in the area more closely and to provide us with a better understanding of air quality in the area.â€ (The monitor is separate from AURN, the official UK Automatic Urban and Rural Network).
In terms of reducing PM10 exceedences, she said that the Agency â€œworks closely with industry to actively reduce the impact on air quality in Neath Port Talbot.Â Â As a result of this, the Port Talbot Steelworks have made a number of improvements in recent years that will improve air quality in Port Talbot.â€
The Agency noted that these include:
And, the Agency also highlighted that Tata is investing Â£185m on a replacement blast furnace with improved dust control measures.
Later this year the Environment Agency is to review all of the steelworks permits against the recently published European Iron and Steel Best Available Techniques (BAT) guidance.Â These are planned to be implemented over the next five years in accordance with the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) which is due to be brought into force in the UK at the start of January 2013.