The environment in AIH is one of the most valuable assets. Proper management of the region’s air, land, and water is critical for long term sustainability. Alberta Environment is responsible for legislation and enforcement to protect these resources, as well as address climate change and waste management. This legislation defines owner and operator responsibilities of both existing and proposed developments.
The province’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act details which activities require approvals as well as the process for obtaining them. Only one application is necessary, even if approval is required in more than one of the following categories:
The province’s regulatory requirements for ensuring environmental protection will soon be supplemented by a new cumulative effects management framework. This new management approach will be modeled first in the Industrial Heartland, providing strategies and targets to sustain the quality of the environment in the region. Working groups for air, water, and sulphur management have already been or will be established, and specific actions will be identified and implemented as the framework progresses.
Alberta’s Industrial Heartland works proactively with the provincial government and other stakeholders in improving the economic and environmental performance of companies and public sector facilities through eco-industrial networking. This involves building on the exchange of energy and products within and among plant complexes. The end result is a more efficient use of resources, materials, and energy.
Additional Environment Resources
Air quality is an important environmental component. Air quality depends on a number of factors, including pollutant sources, the rate that pollutants enter the atmosphere, and the dispersion rate of these pollutants. Advances in technology over the last three decades have led to a decline in the concentration of many air pollutants. Pollution control technology is used in combination with a variety of other strategies to manage air quality.
Monitoring Air Quality in AIH
Air quality in AIH is monitored and reported by Fort Air Partnership (FAP). FAP is a registered not-for-profit society established in 1997 to operate an air monitoring network in a 4,500 square kilometer (1,730 square miles) area including AIH and surrounding areas. FAP is a multi-stakeholder group with members from industry, government, and the public. The FAP Board holds regular monthly meetings, which are open to the public.
The FAP monitoring system currently has eight continuous monitoring stations and 56 passive monitoring sites that collectively measure air quality in the region. The passive monitors collect a monthly average value for specific pollutants. They provide a cost-effective solution for monitoring air quality at locations where continuous monitoring is not practical. The continuous monitoring stations (Lamont County station seen in photo at right) provide hourly data on weather conditions and specific air-borne pollutants. This data is sent to Alberta Environment’s Telus Geomatics website for short term use, and once validated, to the Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA) data warehouse.
Ambient Air Quality Objectives are standards established by Alberta Environment through a multi-stakeholder process, taking into consideration scientific evaluation, emission control technology, natural levels of pollutants, and the impact on public health and ecosystems. When these standards are exceeded and the source is likely to be local, FAP alerts both Alberta Environment and any industry located near the monitor that recorded the exceedance. This activates an investigation into what may have caused the elevated levels. When an exceedance occurs at a monitoring station that is tied to an industrial operating approval, the onus is on industry to conduct a thorough investigation and provide a report to Alberta Environment detailing the possible reasons for the exceedance as well as any follow-up measures taken if the exceedance was attributed to their operations. Exceedances that occur at the Lamont, Fort Saskatchewan or Elk Island stations are reported by FAP.
Three stations (Fort Saskatchewan, Lamont, and Elk Island) also measure parameters required for calculation of the Air Quality Index (see below). A weekly report on the air quality index at the Fort Saskatchewan continuous monitoring station appears in the Sturgeon Creek Post.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is used as a measure of ambient air quality. The monitoring stations described above measure a number of pollutants which are then used to calculate the AQI, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, fine particulate matter and sulphur dioxide. The concentration for each of these pollutants is mathematically converted to an AQI. The highest level for any one of these indicators becomes the AQI value for that hour for that monitoring station. AQI ratings are as follows:
Through a collaborative process with area residents and industry members, air quality in AIH was identified as a topic that deserved dedicated focus. Concerns centered around smog, odors, wind-carried pollutants from other jurisdictions such as Edmonton, cumulative impacts of many industrial sites located in close proximity, measuring air quality, and information dissemination. It was important to all stakeholders to achieve an increased understanding of monitoring systems, relationships between air quality and health issues and long term planning based on future projections of air quality in the area.
Commitment from industry, municipalities, and local organizations to address air quality concerns have resulted in several beneficial initiatives. FAP maintains a variety of resources, including databases, models, educational tools, facts sheets, and reports that are publicly available on their website. Monitoring systems are reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that accurate air quality data is generated. Expertise is shared among alliances with other airshed zones, Alberta Environment, industry, and other technical professionals.
In addition to local organizations and stakeholders working to maintain good air quality in AIH, the Province of Alberta released a Cumulative Effects Management Framework in 2008 (available on Alberta Environment's website). The framework describes the province's new approach to environmental management for protecting Alberta's air, land, and water. The new management system is being modelled through three projects, one of these being Alberta's Industrial Heartland. The air quality component of the management approach in AIH incorporates both emission targets and an allocation system. Emission targets are set for the region as a whole, with the allocation system allowing industry to work cooperatively to meet these targets. Alberta Environment is working collaboratively with stakeholders in the implementation of this new approach.
*Much of the above information was supplied by Fort Air Partnership. Please refer to their website for a more comprehensive summary of air quality monitoring and reporting in AIH.
Water is an essential resource for both residents and businesses in AIH. Two factors contribute to the health of this resource – quality and quantity. Quality is affected by contaminants from a variety of sources, including agricultural run-off, and discharges from municipal and industrial operations. Quantity is the amount of water flowing through a system, which is impacted by all users who draw water for consumption. Both quality and quantity must be properly managed to achieve healthy water systems.
Through a collaborative process with area residents and industry members, water quality in AIH was determined to be an issue of importance. Specific concerns included contamination with hazardous materials, as well as the potential of declining water levels in the Beverly Channel (major aquifer in AIH). All stakeholders agreed that appropriate monitoring of the quality and quantity of groundwater is crucial in preserving the integrity of the resource.
Commitment from industry, municipalities, and local organizations to address water concerns have resulted in several beneficial initiatives. Beginning in 2000 and continuing today, a regional groundwater study and monitoring program was developed and implemented. Ongoing efforts of the Northeast Capital Industrial Association (NCIA) and Alberta Environment enable this monitoring program to achieve its objectives of understanding and maintaining the quality of the region’s groundwater. Additionally, the first of three phases of the Water Management Framework for the Industrial Heartland and Capital Region Report was implemented beginning in January 2009. Resulting from the collaborative efforts of numerous stakeholders, this framework addresses water quantity and quality issues in the North Saskatchewan River, focusing on the area from Devon to Pakan. These initiatives, in combination with the Government of Alberta’s recently renewed Water for Life strategy, build upon each other to achieve successful management of the water supply in AIH.