BALLARAT’S AIR QUALITY GOOD DESPITE DROUGHT DUST
21 January 2004
Whilst enjoying good overall air quality, Ballarat has also been affected the state-wide impacts of drought related dust storms, EPA Victoria monitoring has shown.
Air quality monitoring for particles smaller than 10 micrometres (PM10) in diameter was conducted in Ballarat from February 2002 to September 2003.
Airborne particles affect air quality throughout Victoria. Particles smaller than 10 micrometres (PM10) are one of the seven air pollutants for which Victoria has set air quality objectives and goals.
“Due to their potential impact on human health, particles are considered to be the most critical pollutant for monitoring,” EPA’s Director of Environmental Science Dennis Monahan said.
“Our monitoring showed that the highest readings at Ballarat were caused by dust storms. Other high readings were caused by bushfires and local sources such as wood fires and motor vehicle emissions.”
“While residents in regional centres can generally expect better air quality than metropolitan Melbournians, State-wide weather patterns do not exclude rural communities from large scale events like bushfires and dust storms,” Mr Monahan said.
As part of EPA’s monitoring regime, regional cities are monitored sequentially for one to two years each. Monitoring at Bendigo during 2000–2001 has already been reported, whilst campaign monitoring commenced at Shepparton in early December.
At Ballarat, a high-volume sampler was used to monitor PM10. This instrument collects particles on a filter, which is then weighed to determine the concentration of PM10 in the air during the exposure time.
EPA received tremendous support from the City of Ballarat on this project, with Council staff assisting in the data collection process.
Council’s General Manager Planning & Environmental Services, Mark Marsden said the such a direct involvement in the project was invaluable.
“We are pleased to have been involved in the study, in a hands on way, and are also pleased that the study showed that Ballarat enjoys such good air quality,” Mr Marsden said.
Overall Ballarat’s air quality is better than the Melbourne-Geelong region, with lower PM10 levels, however it is interesting to note that due to similar climatic conditions, Ballarat particles follow a similar pattern.
"Ballarat had fewer exceedences of the PM10 air quality objective than Melbourne (a similar number were recorded if the bushfire impacts over Melbourne are excluded). There were two exceedences observed during the 20 months of monitoring, occurring as a result of dust storms," Mr Monahan said.
“As a result of EPA and national programs in relation to wood heaters and motor vehicles, further improvements in air quality can be expected in Ballarat.”
EPA plans to perform follow up monitoring at Ballarat in 2005; monitoring gaseous and particle pollutants for a period of one year.
More information on air quality as well as copies of the report Particles (PM10) Monitoring at Ballarat - February 2002-September 2003 are available at www.epa.vic.gov.au