Aberdeen's New Air Monitor Justifies Concerns

Jan. 6, 2016

In June 2014 Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society circulated a Fact Sheet raising concerns about the location of the proposed Ajax mine project. Available data on fine particulates in the air have since been analyzed and released in three detailed reports. For example, Tsigaris and Schemenauer (2014b) examined the high PM2.5 values measured by the air monitors in downtown Kamloops over the period 1998 - 2014, adjusting for changes in the types of monitors used. Last month they commented on November air, which continues to be a bad month in Kamloops.

This month they release the fourth in a series of reports that have been written to inform the public, politicians and government decision makers on the quality of the air in Kamloops.

The BC Ministry of the Environment established a new air quality and meteorological monitoring station in Aberdeen in October 2015. This report examines the archived hourly data for the last two-and-a-half months of 2015. The wind direction data show that 74% of the time winds were from the southern half of the terrain and 26% from the northern half. The most frequent wind direction was from the south, followed by southeast, east, west, southwest, northwest, northeast, and north, in that order. The highest concentrations of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) in the air were associated with winds from the northwest and north. An analysis of these data is given in the report along with information on wind speeds and concentrations of ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide at the Aberdeen site.

This has implications for the city in light of the proposed application by KGHM Ajax to establish an open-pit mine on the southern border of the city. Presently, cleaner air enters the upper part of the city from the south - the predominant direction from which winds come. The new monitoring site is on the property of the Pacific Way Elementary School about 1 km away from the edge of the proposed mine. This means that the school and homes in upper Aberdeen are most often receiving air that has passed over the proposed site of the future mine. This air continues to move down into the city of Kamloops.

We now have measurements of meteorological data and air quality data for the upper part of Aberdeen. Dispersion models used in KGHM Ajax's application must demonstrate wind direction and PM2.5 estimates for the upper Aberdeen site that are in agreement with this new report, which is based on measured British Columbia Ministry of the Environment data. If the models cannot replicate the measured data, the models will have no value in describing scenarios for conditions in coming years.