Daily Oil Bulletin: July 11, 2012
Group To Add More Air Monitoring Stations
The new head of the organization that monitors air quality in the Athabasca oilsands region says her first priority is to make sure the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA) doesn't get in over its head.
The independent, community-based, not-for-profit association monitors the air in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and operates a variety of air, land and human monitoring programs.
"What I see going forward, one of the key objectives as we take on more and more monitoring, [is] that we don't exceed the capacity of our organization and that we really pay attention so that we can keep doing some of the things that we're doing really well right now; we can still maintain that as we're enhancing our network going forward," Diane Phillips of Syncrude Canada Ltd. told the Daily Oil Bulletin.
Prior to her appointment as president of the WBEA, she was a member of the ambient air technical committee for 10 years and chaired it for five years. Phillips was also a member of the WBEA governance committee for three years.
"Due to my experience working with WBEA since 1997 I am fully aware of the effort that has gone into the organization by the WBEA committee members, WBEA staff, scientists and WBEA board members to make WBEA a successful organization," she said. "A priority going forward is to ensure that WBEA is sustainable in the long-term from a resource perspective and to ensure that we have the infrastructure in place to support the expected continued growth of the organization."
The WBEA operates 15 continuous stations -- 10 near oilsands projects and five in communities (two in Fort McMurray and one each in Fort MacKay, Fort Chipewyan and Anzac).
It also operates one portable station and one mobile station.
The association has 22 passive monitors attached to 18-metre towers at remote forests, monitoring the air's content of ammonia, nitric acid, ozone, nitrous dioxide and sulphur dioxide.
Another five monitors are solar powered, attached to 30-metre towers in remote forests, recording meteorological data.
The information collected is shared with stakeholders and the public on its website, www.wbea.org, and through reports.
In addition to its monitoring network, the WBEA is studying forest and human health, and one of Phillips' first tasks as president is to gain more in-depth knowledge of these programs.
She said the association is in the first phase of an odour-monitoring program. Currently, the technology used to measure odorous compounds is being assessed to determine the longer-term monitoring strategy.
Also, plans are in place for a new continuous ambient air monitoring station to be installed in the community of Conklin and a new continuous ambient air monitoring station is to be installed between the Total E&P Canada Ltd. Joslyn mine, northwest of Fort McKay, and the community of Fort McKay.
Last year the WBEA commissioned a comprehensive scientific and technical evaluation of the WBEA ambient air quality network that was conducted by respected experts in the field of air quality monitoring, said Phillips.
One of their recommendations was to measure the air quality entering and leaving the air shed, she said, so the WBEA now plans for an ambient air monitoring station to be installed near the Saskatchewan border.
Also last year, operations and maintenance of the ambient air monitoring network contracts were evaluated and the WBEA decided to transition to its own personnel for maintenance of the network from third-party contractors. It hired a program manager, data validation and reporting personnel, three ambient air quality specialists and one intermediate and four junior field technicians.
Among activities in 2011:
Both the federal and provincial governments have identified the need for additional monitoring in this region [the Joint Canada/Alberta Oilsands Plan 2012], said Phillips, who is also a senior environmental scientist for Syncrude Canada Ltd.
"The WBEA is already conducting a substantial amount of the monitoring that is recommended in this report," said Phillips. "In light of this plan and looking forward, working with the member organizations to support anticipated additional monitoring requirements by WBEA will be a priority."
The association was formed in 1985 as the Air Quality Task Force to address environmental concerns raised by the Fort McKay First Nation.