Airing views

As UK industry prepares for the MCERTS 2005 conference and exhibition, John Haven takes a look at the history of air pollution monitoring and the MCERTS scheme

There’s an old saying – “If you don’t monitor it, you can’t manage it” – and this is very much the case in the control of air pollution. Monitoring is necessary in order to ensure that processes are operating within consent limits and to establish background levels so that the effects of pollution from point and diffuse sources can be measured.

Environmental regulations have imposed limits on industrial process emissions in terms of the volume and concentration of pollutants, and this has created a major need to monitor data. However, in order for air quality legislation to be effectively enforced, monitoring data must be accurate, reliable and representative.

An ancient problem

Air pollution has been a significant factor in London since the 13th century – giving rise to no fewer than four commissions to investigate the phenomenon between 1285 and 1310. In 1273 the use of coal in London was prohibited and described as ‘prejudicial to health’, but the popularity of coal was so great that its use continued unabated.

In 1952 the Great Smog of London caused nearly 2,000 deaths above the norm for that period. This resulted in the Clean Air Act of 1956, which marked the beginning of effective air quality legislation in Britain.

Building on existing regulatory systems, the more recent Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 were introduced under the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999.

The PPC Regulations introduced three separate, but linked, systems of pollution control:

  • Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC), covering installations known as A(1) installations and regulated by the Environment Agency (turn to page 25 for more on this);
  • Local Authority Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (LA-IPPC), covering installations known as A(2) installations and regulated by local authorities; and,
  • Local authority Pollution Prevention and Control (LAPPC), covering installations known as Part B installations and also regulated by local authorities. There are some 17,000 Part B installations.
  • In the early 1990s, following a period of consultation, an initiative was established to create a monitoring certification scheme. This became known as MCERTS.

    MCERTS assures the quality of monitoring data and provides for the product certification of instruments, the competency certification of personnel, and the international standards-based accreditation of organisations. More information can be found on the website at

    MCERTS promotes public confidence in monitoring data, and provides industry with a framework for choosing monitoring systems and services that meet the Agency’s performance specifications.

    The benefits of MCERTS are that it:

  • Provides assurance to regulatory authorities that monitoring equipment and services approved to MCERTS standards are fit for purpose and capable of producing results of the required quality and reliability;
  • Gives users of the monitoring equipment or services confidence that they are robust and conform to the Agency’s performance standards; and,
  • Supports the delivery to the public of accurate and reliable data.
  • The initial focus of MCERTS was on continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMs) for chimney stacks. However, the scope was then extended to cover continuous ambient air-quality monitoring systems (CAMs). CAMs certified under MCERTS will meet the performance requirements of the Air Quality Directive and Daughter Directives and the forthcoming CEN standards for monitoring ambient air.

    The Agency then launched MCERTS for manual stack emission monitoring, which is split into two components – the certification of personnel and the accreditation of organisations carrying out stack emission monitoring.

    Other applications now include:

  • Sampling equipment and instruments for water monitoring;
  • Chemical testing of soil;
  • Inspection of self-monitoring arrangements for effluent flow; and,
  • Portable instruments for stack-emissions monitoring.

  • Seeking certification

    In 2003 a Defra consultation paper relating to the 17,000 Part B processes gave the following recommendations:
  • Where new or replacement continuous emission monitors (CEMs) are installed in Part B processes/installations after 1 April 2004, these should be MCERTS-certified;
  • All existing CEMs in Part B processes/installations should be replaced, where necessary, with MCERTS-certified equipment by 1 April 2009; and,
  • All manual stack emissions monitoring undertaken on Part B processes/installations should, from 1 April 2004, be carried out by MCERTS-certified personnel .
  • As a result of this consultation, specific advice is available from Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) relating to the use of MCERTS in the regulation of Part B processes. This is available at environment/airquality/lapc/aqnotes/aq12(04).htm

    In short, this guidance states that MCERTS accreditation is not compulsory in the authorisation of Part B processes, either for the monitoring equipment or the monitoring staff. However, there are a number of circumstances in which MCERTS accreditation may be necessary. For example, the Defra guidance says, “if the difference in cost between a ‘fit for purpose’ unaccredited CEM and an MCERTS-accredited instrument was negligible, it would generally be reasonable to expect the operator to opt for the latter when installing a new CEM or replacing an existing one.” In addition, “if there are cases where the uncertainties of existing CEMs are not known or have not been quantified, local authorities should require such quantification to be undertaken by the operator so as to be able to judge the instrument’s suitability. If this is not feasible or not carried out, it should be replaced with an instrument with known tolerances.”

    Further guidance exists with relation to the use of qualified monitoring staff: “Defra/WAG consider that use of MCERTS-certified personnel is desirable, but that each case should be judged on its merits.” Defra/WAG recognise that instruments approved under MCERTS can generally be expected to produce measurements with less uncertainty than CEMs that have not been approved.

    Conference call

    Sira Certification Service has been appointed by the Agency as the certification body to operate the certification elements of MCERTS. As more MCERTS certificates are awarded, the importance of MCERTS continues to grow. One of the best ways to keep abreast of developments would be to attend the MCERTS event taking place at the Bretby Conference Centre, near Burton-on-Trent, on 12-13 October.

    MCERTS 2005 is more than just a conference; it also offers a series of workshops and an exhibition. It is jointly organised by the Agency, the Dest Testing Association and Environmental Technology (Publications), and seeks to provide the latest information on standards, regulatory issues and technologies relating to air quality monitoring.

    The conference will include a presentation from the Agency giving technical guidance on monitoring methods, with further presentations on particulate and gas analysis. Each day will feature nearly 50 workshop sessions dealing with issues relating to air quality in stack emissions, in the ambient environment and in the workplace. Presentations will include:

  • How to improve your OMS score;
  • Why you should not use a PID (by none other than a PID manufacturer);
  • CEMS;
  • CAMS;
  • BS EN 14181;
  • The monitoring of NOx, SOx, HCl, ammonia, dioxin, particulates and mercury;
  • Discontinuous monitoring;
  • Manual stack monitoring;
  • Calibration & Sampling; and,
  • Certification of monitoring staff.
  • Looking forward to this year’s event, John Tipping from the Agency says: “MCERTS 2005 promises to be even bigger and better. Over the 18 months or so since the last event, MCERTS has made major progress in a number of areas, for example increased number of certified instruments, certified personnel and accredited laboratories; the launch of a scheme for portable gas analysers; and, technical endorsement 5 for PM10, etc. There is also the extension to direct toxicity measurements and potential extension to landfill gas measurements.

    “One further major development has been the introduction of European standard EN 14181 for Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) and Waste Incineration Directive (WID) installations. We will be running workshops on this important standard during the two days at Bretby.”

    Delegate numbers at the MCERTS 2004 event were up by 50% over the previous year, and in the light of such statistics, the organisers anticipate that MCERTS 2005 will also be a sell-out.

    For further information on the MCERTS 2005 event visit or email

    Now turn the page for a comprehensive list of all the exhibitors taking part in the event, as well as a layout plan of the Bretby Conference Centre.

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