The Air Up There: Measuring Sarnia Lambton Air Quality

It’s not always easy to get a good understanding about the quality of the air we breathe. After all, we are dealing with a resource that you can’t see and that is usually odourless. To complicate matters, even if our air was visible, or came with an odour, it could still be safe to breathe. Measuring air quality scientifically against specific health risk-related standards set by provincial and federal regulators is a sound way of assessing local plant emissions and ambient atmospheric conditions.

Dean Edwardson, General Manager of the Sarnia-Lambton Environmental Association (SLEA) hold a bachelor of Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo and to discuss represents Sarnia area industry on several Boards and Committees focusing on environmental and health issues.

As I am writing this story, the current air quality health index rates Sarnia as a 2.

Where 1-3 represents a low risk, 4-6 is a moderate risk, 7-10 is high risk and anything over 10 is considered very high risk. So lets be honest, I am feeling pretty good sitting in my office…of course there is that article I just read about potential radon gas in the corners of my room, but that is another story. The big question is: “Are we always a 2 or is this just a particularly good morning?” Also, “Just what is a 2?”

There are six contaminants that are monitored across Canada: Sulphur Dioxide, Ozone, Nitrogen Oxides, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), Particulate Matter, and Total Reduced Sulphur (Such as Hydrogen Sulphide) In Sarnia, Ethylene is added to the list as large quantities of this product are produced and stored locally.

Eleven Air Monitoring stations are strategically situated up and downwind of local indust r ial plants. The monitoring stat ions automatically collect and analyzes air samples and record hourly averages of targeted contaminants present.

SLEA also maintains a mobile moni tor that can be quickly dispatched to the scene of an environmental incident. Member companies also use this mobile monitor during major maintenance and construction projects.

“Guided by scientific data and practical experience, the member companies encourage each other to reduce the environmental footprints of their plant sites. It is through their collective commitment to ongoing environmental improvements that positive and measured results are being realized locally.” –Dean Edwardson, General Manager May 27, 2009

Interested in learning more about our environment? Take a deep breath, get a drink, sit back and enjoy a great discussion on this and other important environmental topics at Green Drinks Sarnia.

Green Drinks Sarnia is a monthly environmental discussion forum whose purpose is to create a friendly atmosphere from which to look at current issues that affect us with a balanced view. Each month a topic is selected and a person knowledgeable about the topic is asked to lead the discussion.

Green Drinks Sarnia happens on the second Wednesday of every month.

Green Drinks Sarnia is held at 100 Christina Street.

Green Drinks Sarnia is always agenda free.

And perhaps most important Green Drinks Sarnia is always free to attend.

At each session we provide a light snack from the One Tomato Kitchen’s – Food Works grade seven healthy eating and cooking Program. Beer and Wine is also available.