25/11/2011

Traffic Congestion Clouds Air Quality

There's something in the air this week with news of improvements in Northern Ireland's air quality standard - but there's still big problems near major road junctions.

The NI Environment Minister Alex Attwood has advised that air quality here has continued to improve year on year.

However eight sites, close to heavily trafficked roads, within five district council areas reported levels above the required air quality monitoring standards.

Elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide were reported at monitoring locations in Belfast (three sites at Newtownards Road, Stockmans Lane and Westlink/Roden Street), Castlereagh, Londonderry, Newtownabbey and Newry (two sites at Canal Street and Trevor Hill).

In addition, two sites in Newry, Canal Street and Trevor Hill, also showed high levels of particulate matter (PM10).

The news came from the Northern Ireland Air Quality Monitoring summary report launched this week with data on air quality levels in Northern Ireland during 2010.

The report, prepared by the Department of Environment (DOE) in partnership with District Councils, provides details of air quality monitoring, summary of results, long term trends and information on progress being made by councils in managing local air quality.
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Commenting on the findings, SDLP Minister, Alex Attwood said: "I welcome the fact that overall, air quality continues to improve and is good for the vast majority of the time in Northern Ireland.

"However, some hotspot areas have been identified close to heavily trafficked roads that require additional measures to improve air quality.

"District Councils submitted action plans to my Department setting out a range of actions aimed at improving air quality at those hotspots.

"My Department continues to support actions to improve local air quality. In 2010/11 £571,000 of funding was provided to District Councils under the Local Air Quality Management grant scheme to enable councils to invest directly in improving air quality within their districts," he added.

Continuous monitoring undertaken at 36 automated sites across Northern Ireland show that Air Quality objectives were met in full at 26 of these sites.

Air Quality Management Areas have been declared in each of these District Councils and to date a total of 19 air quality management areas in 10 Council areas have been declared across NI. Action Plans to improve air quality in these areas have been formulated and are being implemented by the relevant councils under the provisions of the Environment (NI) Order 2002.

Monitoring has shown that Air Quality objectives are being fully met within two air quality management areas in Ballymoney and Antrim and as a result these were revoked during 2010.

(BMcC/GK)

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