The Native Sons Hall is one of 10 Courtenay locations where air monitoring devices will be installed. Scott Stanfield photo

Courtenay to install air monitoring devices

Courtenay Council has directed city staff to install air monitoring devices to measure PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) concentrations and report them on an online map in real time.

As it stands, data from a provincial air monitoring station is limited because it only records measurements at a single location, and cannot record the variation. A 2017 study found that PM2.5 concentrations vary widely in the Comox Valley. The variation would be better measured by a network of PM2.5 air monitors, a staff report states.

Air quality is of particular concern in winter due to residential wood burning.

“We consistently have concentrations of PM2.5 that exceeds the B.C. air quality objectives,” Jeanniene Tazzioli, manager of engineering, environmental projects, said at the Feb. 8 council meeting.

The city proposes to use PurpleAir monitors — inexpensive air quality sensors that use laser particle counters to measure PM2.5 concentrations in real time, and upload the measurements to a map.

“It makes the readings accessible,” Tazzioli said. “Residents can log on and see what the air monitors are reading at any given time.”

The city proposes to install the monitors at seven schools, and at the Native Sons Hall, the Bill Moore Park Lawn Bowling Club, and the bathrooms at Martin Park off 20th Street. A number of factors were considered in selecting the locations: access for installation, availability of power and Wi-Fi, and distribution of wood smoke. Schools were determined to be ideal monitoring locations because of their ability to reflect PM2.5 exposure of students, and their power and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Purchasing and installing PurpleAir monitors would cost about $7,000. Annual replacement and maintenance costs are anticipated to be $1,500.

“I think this is good value for the money,” Coun. Doug Hillian said.

READ: Courtenay considers ways to regulate excessive wood smoke

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