B.C. Air Quality

Network Description

The provincial air monitoring network includes three categories of monitoring stations:

  • Continuous stations — these stations constantly monitor air quality by drawing air in through a tube and automatically transmitting the data (via telephone or cellular networks) to a central Ministry of Environment database.
  • Noncontinuous stations — these stations collect air pollutants on filters (or in canisters in the case of volatile organic compounds). The filters or canisters are collected by technicians in the field after a discrete period of time (e.g. 24 hours) and sent to a certified laboratory for chemical and/or gravimetric (weight) analysis.
  • Mobile monitors — these consist of a number of instruments installed in a large vehicle or an airplane, and are used to assess ambient air quality over short periods of time in areas not covered by the permanent monitoring network, or for special studies.

The Ministry of Environment's Mobile Air Monitoring Lab

The Ministry of Environment's
Mobile Air Monitoring Laboratory (MAML)

In B.C. there are approximately 100 continuous and 50 noncontinuous ambient air monitoring stations. Metro Vancouver air quality staff operate approximately 20 of these continuous stations. The 80 continuous stations in the remainder of the province are run and maintained by a combination of Ministry of Environment and industry (permittee) staff.

In addition, there are approximately 20 industrial facilities across the province that continuously monitor air pollutants that are emitted directly from their facilities (i.e. in the stacks). There are a further 80 industrial facilities that perform yearly or quarterly sampling on emissions from their stacks, as required by their permit to operate.

There are also mobile air quality monitors in Metro Vancouver and in the rest of the province, such as the Ministry of Environment's Mobile Air Monitoring Laboratory (MAML), pictured right. The MAML can monitor meteorological conditions, and take continuous and non-continuous measurements for a variety of parameters, including particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2), hydrogen sulphide (H2S), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ozone (O3).

The B.C.'s Air Quality Readings section of this website includes an interactive map of our monitoring stations with hourly air quality data. The monitoring station network can also be viewed by downloading the station coordinates and loading them in Google Earth.

The Province of British Columbia's first mobile air monitoring laboratory debuted in 1972. It was a 9.4 metre long bus called the Snifferbug.

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