Monitoring Wexford's air
Air pollution levels in Enniscorthy can be up to ten times higher than in Dublin City Centre on winter nights, according to a recent EPA-funded study.
The findings of the 'Sapphire Project', which was conducted by University College Cork, were revealed at a recent Asthma Society meeting in the Riverside Park Hotel in Enniscorthy. Domestic solid fuel burning and in particular, smoky coal burning, were named the two main factors for the high level of air pollution. At present, Enniscorthy is not a smokeless fuel zone.
In response to these findings, Wexford County Council has commenced a programme of installing real-time air monitoring equipment which will be capable of detecting PM10, PM 2.5 AND PM1 across the county. These air monitoring stations will provide the over 13,000 asthma sufferers in Wexford and the general public with up-to-date real-time (within the hour) information on the quality of the air in their locality. The air monitoring equipment in Wexford town is live, while work is continuing in New Ross and Enniscorthy to install equipment. Subject to funding, they hope to install more air monitoring equipment in Gorey before the end of the year.
'Once fully operational, Wexford people will have the best knowledge of the air quality in their locality anywhere in the country,' said Kevin Kelly, Advocacy Manager with the Asthma Society. 'Nationally, the Asthma Society is campaigning to have this level of information available right across the country for the 470,000 asthmatics in Ireland. At present, we have no accurate information on what the air quality is like in towns and villages across the country at any given time.'
Prior to the installation of the new equipment in Wexford town, there were only three Irish monitoring stations capable of reporting real-time concentrations of the standard parameters for particulate matter, PM2.5 and PM10 located in South Dublin, Clare and Mayo. There is one EPA funded air monitoring site currently situated in Enniscorthy however it does not report in real-time and only detects PM10.
'Ireland is ten to fifteen years behind our European neighbours when it comes to air monitoring and while steps being undertaken in Wexford are to be welcomed, we need to see action at a national level to address years of under investment in this area,' concluded Mr Kelly.
The recent meeting was held as part of the 2015 Clean Air Campaign, which was launched by the Asthma Society of Ireland last year. The audience heard detailed presentations from CEO of the Asthma Society Sharon Cosgrove, Professor John Sodeau (Director of the Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry UCC) and from Brendan Cooney Senior Executive Scientist from Wexford County Council.
At the recent launch of the campaign, members highlighted the fact that Ireland is falling behind European Standards when it comes to air pollution monitoring. Despite 4.7 million people living in the country, we only have 31 monitoring sites, compared to 20 sites in Northern Ireland.