Residents query air quality data

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by Greta Yeoman

A group of Timaru residents is querying Timaru’s high levels of air pollution over summer.

About Environment Canterbury’s air quality data

One of the main air pollutants in Canterbury is particle matter with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres (PM10).

Timaru is considered to have reached an unhealthy air pollution level if the PM10 levels are higher than 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

Changes to national air quality standards ruled Timaru needs to have fewer than three days per year with PM10 over 50mcg.

The town had 17 high-pollution nights in 2017.

South Canterbury regional air plan liaison committee member Helen Henderson said she had been monitoring Environment Canterbury’s air quality data for Timaru for several months and noticed some higher readings on summer days – days when residents clearly would not be using their wood-burners.

She had been interested in these higher readings over the summer months because ECan had said most of Timaru’s air pollution was caused by wood-burners, which were unlikely to be in use during the warmer days, she said.

While none of these readings exceeded the 50mcg limit, air pollution levels reached 40mcg on January 15, 39mcg on January 16 and 32mcg on January 31.

This compared with 39mcg on March 18 and 44mcg on March 19.

However, ECan operations manager Judith Earl-Goulet said the PM10s (particles with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres) measured over summer were probably sea salt or dust.

Financial options for woodburner owners

Environment Canterbury subsidies for low-income households to replace their woodburner will return in July.

Woodburner users who have not yet complied with new home-heating rules should contact ECan on 800 329-276 to see what their options are.

Temporary waivers can be offered to some homeowners or tenants, with exceptional circumstances, who will not have a compliant heat source installed before winter.

The Healthier Homes Canterbury scheme, which is being proposed in long-term plan 2018-28 discussions, would allow eligible ratepayers to borrow up to $6000 from Environment Canterbury to pay for home heating appliances, insulation and ventilation.

The cost would be added to their rates bill.

The scheme would be launched by September this year, if adopted by the regional council.

They were unlikely to be from vehicle emissions as these were often PM2.5s, she said.

Pollution levels from Timaru’s chimneys are back in the spotlight. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

Research had shown the majority of Timaru’s pollution levels were caused by home-heating methods, which was why the council had brought in the wood-burner changes, Mrs Earl-Goulet said.

The Courier has heard of Timaru residents who have put in ultra-low emission burners, which were approved under the ECan changes, only to find they were still getting smoky chimney warnings from council smoke spotters.

However, Mrs Earl-Goulet defended this, explaining that the wood-burners were better for the town’s pollution levels – if people lit their fires correctly.

“Any device can create smoke if it’s not used properly.”

It could also be caused by people using wet wood or not having a clean chimney, she said.

Because of this, ECan was hosting workshops for residents still needing to upgrade to low or ultra-low emission burners, as well as giving tips about how to burn smoke-free.

A couple of the sessions, run by New Zealand Home Heating Association “fire master” Dave Pullen, ran yesterday and two more will be held today, at 10am and 5.30pm, at Breen Plumbing, 39 Browne St, Timaru.