Technology aids LAs in meeting Government targets
Local authorities who, by Government decree, are taking increasing interest in the quality of the air within their boundaries, now have the opportunity to seriously tackle the root cause of most urban air pollution - motor vehicles through advances in technology says Cameron Stathers of Casella EtiOngoing developments in technology that are refining the measurement of air quality - and associated pollution - are enabling councils to better inform the public of pollution problem areas and highlight the benefits of the successful measures being adopted. The latest advancements enable them to screen for vehicles emitting unacceptable levels of exhaust fumes.
Open path, laser technology that allows a beam to be projected across a road to measure exhaust levels of passing vehicles within the same millisecond that a camera records details of registration numbers is the latest equipment available to authorities seeking to reduce levels of pollution.
Ultimately, as long as all data protection requirements are met, software could easily be developed to provide the automatic recognition of the offending vehicle through the DVLC and the production of a standard letter informing the owner of vehicle to have further cheeks or engine tunes undertaken in a pre determined manner.
This is a particularly relevant piece of technology: already similar systems are widely used in some American States to enable vehicle owners to agree to automatic checking of their emissions at one of the specially designated drive through-sites. By voluntarily agreeing to the checks the vehicle owner does not have to pay for a separate annual emission test that is required under US State legislation. As a result of the current U.K. legislation most local authorities have now identified the fact that, in general, a high percentage of the most serious pollution within their areas is generated by road traffic. In areas that exceed government guidelines local authorities will have embarked upon subsequent more detailed monitoring studies following the declaration of Air Quality Management areas.Roadside monitors The identification of road generated pollution as a major contributing factor to poor urban air quality has led to the need for more specific measurement systems to be designed. To meet this requirement Casella Eti has developed the Romon Range of roadside monitors. The Romon300, which houses an ME 9841 chemiluminescent oxides of nitrogen analyser and a R&P TEOM PM10 particulate monitor, is the latest addition to this bespoke range. It features a custom-built, vandal-resistant, air-conditioned, stainless steel enclosure for use in locations where space is at a premium and critical positioning is essential. It may also house an additional ambient air quality analyser for the measurement of CO or ozone, while the TEOM 1400 particulate monitor may easily be converted to measure the PM2.5 particulate size fraction as well. A further advantage of these smaller purpose-built units is that often they do not require planning permission, as did their larger predecessors. In addition to traditional measurement equipment Casella Eti has recently introduced the ETL 2000 that ulitises new small solid-state thick film sensors for the measurement of NO2 CO, ozone and benzene. In addition to these gases the ETL 2000 simultaneously measures noise, temperature and relative humidity, as well. It is important that this new thick film technology should not be confused with the electrochemical sensors that have been available for a number of years as their performance is far superior to the older technology. Because of advancements in solid state sensors the ETL2000 is extremely small and lightweight so it may be easily and discretely located on lampposts and other items of street furniture. It may also be used for landfill site boundary monitoring with optional sensors available to monitor CH4, H2S and NH3. Integrated management This additional measurement activity, allied to the fact that it is an undisputed fact that so much urban pollution is road-traffic generated, has led authorities to develop more integrated air pollution management schemes whereby air quality data is integrated into an urban traffic management and control scheme (UTMC). This enables real time data to be used alongside information on roads usage to produce dynamic public information schemes demonstrating the levels of pollution in particular locations Such information can often lead to modification of traffic flows that will, as a matter of fact, reduce pollution levels. However, for UTMCs to be entirely successful, air quality analysers will be required to communicate directly with specific road traffic communications protocols already in use. My own company is already exploring the development of dedicated protocols to enhance these communication opportunities and other low cost techniques that are likely to be employed to lock into more widespread networks for pollution, as opposed to the traditional approach. The technology is already available for local authorities to keep their public informed of everything they are doing - and achieving - and air quality is no exception. Software packages such as Enview 2000 enables collection of air quality data, analysis and seamless exporting to custom designed web sites or even scrolling public display screens. This type of service can be used to provide the general public with the latest air quality data and other information or air quality or health related issues. Public display kiosks and plasma display screens up to 61 inches are available. Authorities such as Sunderland and Tyne and Wear Pollution Group are already well advanced in the use of such technology and are in the process of having there own air quality website been installed be Casella Eti. Doncaster MBC has recently taken delivery of a public display system to be sited at the reception to the council head quarters featuring a scrolling display to provide visitors with latest information on levels from the five air quality sites in the borough. No article on air pollution would be complete without reference to industrial emissions which, although not as universal as that emanating from road traffic, remain a significant problem for environmental health professionals. Industry also has not escaped Government attention as the Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) regulations demonstrate. Different sectors of industry have been brought within the remit of the regulations over the past couple of years leaving plant managers and operators with a responsibility to measure pollution levels round their boundaries and giving environmental health officers the responsibility of policing that specific activity sectors. Additionally Section 106 of the planning regulations has placed an onus on developers of commercial and residential projects to prove that their projects will have no significant environmental impact during construction and subsequent use. In truth, everybody has a responsibility for the maintenance of air quality in Britain, but it falls upon local authorities to implement the majority of the measures that have been put in place to ensure pollution levels are kept to an absolute minimum. Thankfully they have the backing of companies such as Casella who are devoting significant resources to the development of software and systems that will make their task easier to execute and the results they are seeking more comprehensive.