Irish EPA ramps up nationwide air-quality sensor programme

6 Nov 2017

Image: Photo and Vector/Shutterstock

The EPA is bolstering Ireland’s air-quality sensor network across the country as it calls for stricter pollutant guidelines.

The biggest threat facing Ireland from an air quality perspective is the burning of solid fuels, closely followed by vehicle emissions, according to a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The findings show that while Ireland did not exceed any legal EU limit values in 2016 for ambient air quality, particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide levels were above the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline values.

Now, the EPA is looking to keep on top of the latest developments by expanding Ireland’s air-quality sensor network across the country with 38 automatic, internet of things (IoT) monitoring stations, providing enhanced real-time information to the public.

The siting of the stations will be based on the criteria of population size, vulnerability to air quality issues and spatial distribution, and will measure particulates, heavy metals, and inorganic and organic gases.

This, the EPA said, will provide significantly more accurate modelling and forecasting capabilities under the new national Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme (AAMP).

EPA network

Map of the planned locations for the expanded EPA air-quality monitoring network. Infographic: EPA

Stricter guidelines needed

The report said that the existing network – in addition to these new sensors – will see increased automation and will be accessible by local councils as well as the EPA.

The AAMP also aims to encourage greater citizen science contribution following the EPA’s collaboration with Intel and the National College of Art and Design last year, and will work with local people to trial new air-quality monitoring technologies.

“It has become increasingly clear that there are no safe level of pollutants and, with this in mind, it is time to tackle the biggest issue impacting on air quality in Ireland: emissions from solid fuels in our small towns around the country,” said Laura Burke, director general of the EPA.

“While the EU has introduced and implemented a range of legal instruments to improve air quality, these standards are still not in line with the tighter WHO air quality guidelines. The EPA again calls for movement towards the adoption of these stricter guidelines, especially for particulates and ozone, as legal and enforceable standards across Europe and in Ireland.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic