The PAMZ Air Quality Monitoring Program uses passive monitors as a cost-effective method of collecting air quality data over a large region (45,000 sq. km.). The resulting database is suitable for the identification of long term air quality trends and assessing spatial variability, a typical approach in making regional-scale air quality assessments. The advantages of the passive samplers used by PAMZ are their simple design, low cost and ease of use. No power is required for operation, making them suitable for remote use; the only major restriction in locating samplers is the ability to access the sampler.

Passive samplers rely on the principles of permeation and diffusion to physically uptake the specific compound being sampled. This method is an alternative to active sampling or continuous monitoring where an air sample is drawn or forced mechanically into or through a collection device or past a detector.

The pollutants currently monitored are sulphur dioxide (SO2), a surrogate for oil and gas activity, specifically the processing of sour gas and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) a surrogate for a wide range of anthropogenic activities that involve high temperature combustion.

Continuous monitoring involves drawing air through highly sensitive analyzers calibrated to produce an output that is proportional to the ambient concentration of the compound being monitored. This provides the best data but is more costly than passive monitoring.

The PAMZ continuous monitoring program monitors a wide range of anthropogenic and natural emissions. These include: sulphur dioxide (SO2), hydrogen sulphide (H2S), total reduced sulphur compounds (TRS), oxides of nitrogen (NOX), ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), methane, non-methane and total hydrocarbons (CH4, NMHC, THC) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The analyzers and instrumentation used are consistent with other air quality zones in Alberta and fulfill all the specification requirements of The Alberta Air Monitoring Directive.

PAMZ analyzers are capable of detecting low level concentrations of compounds that may be associated with chronic human and livestock health disorders as well as the higher levels associated with the health concerns resulting from acute exposures. Intensive QA/QC programs stemming from monitoring and data management permit detection of subtle changes and trends in data. This allows assessment of the impacts of various emission-producing operations within the zone.

The continuous monitoring program utilizes data collected at four continuous monitoring stations. The continuous monitoring stations consist of:

  • One permanently fixed station, owned and operated by PAMZ, located approximately 16 kilometres south-southeast of the town of Caroline;
  • Two permanently fixed stations located in the City of Red Deer. The first is located along Riverside Drive near Three Mile Bend. This station is owned by Alberta Environment & Parks and is operated by PAMZ. The second permanent station is owned and operated by PAMZ and is located at the Lancaster Reservoir in the city’s southeast;
  • One continuous portable Air Quality Monitoring (AQM) Station owned and operated by PAMZ. This station is housed in a portable trailer and is used primarily to gather data to address regional air quality issues and geographic data gaps.

The criteria used to locate the portable monitoring station varies. The selection of the locations for issues response monitoring is based on recommendations from the PAMZ Issues Response Group. The Issues Response Group receives this input through its annual public meeting held specifically for this purpose and also through stakeholder input received at regular Board meetings. Once the recommendations of the Issues Response Group are approved by the PAMZ Board, the Technical Working Group selects specific monitoring locations which are then finalized and secured by the Executive Director. The selection of the sites associated with geographic data gaps is made by the Technical Working Group based on a review of the geographic data gaps that need to be addressed by the monitoring program. These selections are reviewed and approved by the Board and are then finalized and secured by the Executive Director.