New annual air quality targets already exceeded in Christchurch and Kaiapoi

Christchurch and Kaiapoi have already exceeded new annual air quality targets just four weeks into winter.

Christchurch and Kaiapoi have already exceeded new annual air quality targets just four weeks into winter.

Christchurch has recorded four high air pollution nights since May 14 and Kaiapoi has notched up six since May 23.

New national compliance targets, introduced in September last year, allow for three high pollution nights each year. From 2020, it will reduce to one.

Both locations have already recorded almost as many high pollution nights this year as they did for all of last year, when Christchurch had five and Kaiapoi seven.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) air portfolio director Katherine Trought said home heating was the major contributor to winter air pollution in the region.

On Sunday night, when temperatures plummeted below freezing, Christchurch air pollution levels hit 63 micrograms of particulate per cubic metre of air at a monitoring site in St Albans. Kaiapoi hit 61 on Sunday night. The health guideline is 50 PM10.

PM10 particles are used to measure air quality levels. The particles are so small they can get into the lungs, potentially causing serious health problems.

Trought said given the number of high pollution nights already experienced this year, it was likely last year’s figure would be exceeded, but the long term trend was falling and the level of the pollution had dropped.

ECan figures show 32 nights exceeded pollution guidelines in Christchurch in 2011 and were often in concentrations of more than 100 PM10. In the early 2000s, the number of high pollution nights exceeded 50 and levels were more than 200 PM10.

Trought said ECan had been working for a long time to get people to upgrade their heating technology and to reduce the amount of smoke produced by their wood burners.

It was encouraging to see the uptake of low and ultra-low emission burners and, by January 1, 2019, any new burner installed must be an ultra-low emission burner, she said.

ECan has also deployed investigators to trawl Christchurch’s streets looking for chimneys producing visible smoke for longer than 15 minutes.

Trought said 100 letters and bundles of kindling had already been handed out to residents with smoking chimneys.

“We prefer to go out early in winter to make sure people get the message rather than leaving it to August.”

Residents could face $750 fines if chimneys continued to belch smoke after receiving warnings, but ECan has so far opted for education over penalties.

Source: New annual air quality targets already exceeded in Christchurch and Kaiapoi | Stuff.co.nz

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