Observant members of the Swan Hills community may have noticed that some new equipment has appeared close to the Town Office building. One device is supported by a tripod stand at the top of the toboggan hill, but the second device, much smaller and not as noticeable, is mounted to the west of the building.
The Grizzly Gazette spoke with Bob Myrick, Director of Airshed Sciences at Alberta Environmental And Protected Areas, to learn about the new equipment.
Myrick explains that the larger of the two devices is an Environmental Beta-Attenuation Mass Monitor (E-BAM), which measures particulate matter in the air. It continuously samples the air for matter 2.5 µm (micrometres) or smaller, providing accurate real-time data about the particulate concentration in the ambient air. For reference, 2.5 µm is about 1/20 the thickness of a human hair. Myrick explains that particles this size are too small to be seen individually with the human eye but can be seen collectively as smoke. They are small enough for a person to breathe into their lungs and can be a health concern.
The smaller device is a PurpleAir air quality monitor. It also continuously measures small particles but is not as precise as the E-BAM. According to Myrick, this instrument works as a good indicator but provides more qualitative than quantitative data. The readings are given in a low, medium, or high range.
Both devices were installed on May 24 as a result of the wildfires. Accurate real-time air sampling can be one of the best indicators of wildfire activity.
The air quality information collected by these instruments will add to a comprehensive nationwide monitoring system. Most existing air quality monitoring stations are located in larger urban centres, but small stations like the one in Swan Hills help fill the system’s gaps. Visit cyclone.unbc.ca/aqmap/#9/54.4788/-115.6833 to see a map displaying hourly observations from across Canada, including the data from Swan Hills.
Canada Environment and Climate Change also uses data from this national monitoring system to develop air-quality models that can be utilized with weather reports when creating air-quality forecasts and alerts.
By Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jun 07, 2023