Saturday, May 25, 2024

EPA Victoria launches regional air quality program

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is rolling out a major initiative to monitor and report on air quality in regional Victoria.

The Regional Sensor Pilot Project will expand on EPA’s existing network to monitor and publicly report on the levels of fine particles (PM2.5) in the air from sources such as smoke, in an additional 49 regional Victorian towns.  

Hourly air quality categories from each sensor, indicating the level of smoke and other fine particles in the town, will be made available through EPA’s AirWatch website.

“We saw during the bushfires last year just how much the community wanted information to help protect their health, particularly from smoke,” said EPA CEO, Lee Miezis.

“The sensor network will give a real time indication of the air quality in local regional areas. This is the largest air sensor network program we have undertaken. This pilot project will help us determine how a sensor network can improve our air monitoring coverage across Victoria before we consider a permanent arrangement.”

Mr Miezis said the rollout complements the 41 existing monitoring sites across Melbourne, Geelong and the Latrobe Valley, as well as the Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) community smoke monitoring program and EPA’s incident air monitoring capacity.

Most of the new sensors are located at VICSES sites, building on an existing relationship established through the community smoke monitoring initiative. Sensors have also been located at some Country Fire Authority sites, councils and educational institutions. Funding for the program was via a partnership between EPA and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. 

“Victoria’s air quality is generally very good, but there are times when airborne pollutants can reduce that quality, usually due to smoke from bushfires in summer and wood burning heaters in winter” said EPA’s Acting Chief Environmental Scientist, Dr Carolyn Brumley.

“EPA is able to accurately predict air quality through a range of tools including weather forecasting and smoke modelling, but projects like this will provide valuable on-the-ground information.”

The Regional Sensor Network locations:
Ararat, Bacchus Marsh, Bairnsdale, Beechworth, Benalla, Bright, Broadford, Camperdown, Castlemaine, Chiltern, Cobden, Colac, Daylesford – Hepburn Springs Drysdale – Clifton Springs, East Warburton, Gisborne, Hamilton, Heathcote, Heywood, Kerang, Kinglake, Kyneton, Lakes Entrance, Lancefield, Leongatha, Lorne, Macedon, Maffra, Mallacoota, Mansfield, Myrtleford, Orbost, Ouyen, Portland, Rutherglen, Sale, Seville, Shepparton – Mooroopna, Stawell, Sunbury, Swan Hill, Torquay – Jan Juc, Wallan, Warburton, Warragul, Wodonga, Wonthaggi, Yarra Glen, Yarrawonga.

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