FAP is making a number of upgrades to its monitoring network in 2013. A major upgrade is a new data acquisition system in all eight of our continuous monitoring stations.The data acquisition system is responsible for transferring the continuous one-minute data that is collected from the analyzers in the stations to a central database, where the data can then be analyzed and validated. This information is used for reporting to government and other stakeholders, calculating the Air Quality Health Index, trending and planning. The new system will enable technicians operating the network to remotely interact with the analyzers in the stations, leading to a more proactive approach to dealing with analyzer issues.
FAP is also installing two new calibrators in the network. Two others were installed in 2012. These pieces of equipment are used to calibrate the monitors used to measure air quality. They are installed in every continuous station and stay connected to the analyzers to conduct monthly calibrations and handle daily accuracy tests. Previously, calibrators were trucked from station to station for monthly calibrations so this project will allow for more efficiency. It will also ensure that calibrations are done in a consistent manner.
FAP has been replacing its five particulate matter analyzers with ones that use a newer, federally approved technology. With the last two particulate matter analyzers going into place this year, the entire network will soon be using this up-to-date technology to measure particulate matter.
Particulate Matter – changes in monitoring technology
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter. In comparison, a human hair is about 70 micrometres in diameter. These fine particles are small enough to penetrate the lungs and can be a human health concern, depending on its composition.
PM2.5 can be directly emitted into the atmosphere by any combustion source including automobiles, industrial processes and wood burning. Smoke from forest fires and other types of biomass burning can also be a major source of PM2.5. These sources are all examples of primary particulate matter. Secondary particulate matter is formed in the atmosphere from precursor gases (e.g., SO2, NOx, and volatile organic compounds) reacting in the right type of weather conditions.
Standard monitoring methods for PM2.5 have recently been improved. The newer technology installed in FAP’s stations now accounts for certain volatile components in the particles that previously may have not been accounted for.