Air pollution levels high in and around Timaru

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by Chris Tobin

The winter air quality of Timaru and environs remains poor, judging by recent Environment Canterbury (ECan) data.

As of last Friday, ECan’s website showed Washdyke was No 1 for high pollution nights in Canterbury this year with 12.

The maximum high pollution nights allowable for Washdyke was one.

“The monitoring site in Washdyke had to be moved in early 2019 with redevelopment at the previous site in Washdyke Flat Rd,” ECan Timaru operations manager Judith Earl-Goulert said.

“The increase in high PM10 [particulate matter in the air smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter] concentrations at the site may be giving us a more accurate picture of what’s happening in Washdyke and is possibly due to the proximity to a variety of sources in the areas.”

ECan was working alongside the Timaru District Council to explore options and identify the sources of the high levels, she said.

Next on the list of towns and cities with high pollution nights were Timaru and Christchurch, both on seven.

Last Tuesday, Timaru had the highest pollution concentrations of PM10 in Canterbury.

Timaru registered a PM10 level of 56mg/m3, Washdyke was next on 38mg/m3, Waimate also had 38mg/m3, Geraldine 31mg/m3, Rangiora 29mg/m3, Ashburton 28mg/m3 and Woolston in Christchurch had 20mg/m3.

Under the Government’s National Environmental Standards for air quality, Timaru’s airshed, which is located at Anzac Square, must experience fewer than three days per year with PM10 over 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air now, and no more than one day per year from September 1 this year.

Regional councils that fail to comply with the PM10 standard will not be able to grant resource consent applications for discharges to the air.

So far this year, as of last Friday, Timaru had recorded seven days above the required level, one ahead of Woolston in Christchurch.

Timaru’s Anzac Square airshed also recorded the highest number of days in Canterbury so far this year of PM2.5 national environment standards.

There have been 23 days when the pollution was above the goal target.

PM2.5 particles come from wood burners, vehicles and industrial boilers.

“We have been working closely with the Timaru community for many years to improve winter air quality that results from home heating,” Ms Earl-Goulet said.