The province is installing an air quality monitoring station on the grounds of the Skeena Middle School.

New air quality monitoring station being installed in Terrace, B.C.

It's located on the grounds of the Skeena Middle School

The new fenced off area on Skeena Middle School’s ground is no longer a mystery – it’s the future home of an air quality monitoring system and it will be there for a few decades.

With the compound now ready to be used, the device to measure air quality is being calibrated in Vancouver and should be installed within weeks, explains Barry Watson, who studies air quality and who is a meteorologist with the provincial government.

The school grounds are the best location, Watson explained, because it will be a good representation of the air in the area.

“It’s representative of the local population and located near a sensitive population — kids,” Watson said noting that the field also satisfies the meteorological side of things because it won’t be affected by local features like tall trees and buildings.

The previous site in Terrace was on the provincial government building located beside the provincial liquor store but the data was compromised because the building’s heat and ventilation systems contain sulphur dioxide or nitrous oxide which contaminated the air samples, Watson explained.

The monitoring system will collect air through veins and analyze the particulates in order to establish a baseline of air quality in residential Terrace.

“It will also measure wood burnings and dust as well,” said Watson.

“We want to establish a baseline and we’re aware that industrial development will require discharge into the atmosphere with air pollutants and we need to measure what’s there now previous to development,” Watson said, this baseline will be used to ensure that air quality stays within specifications set by the province.

The price tag for the technology runs around $150,000, but the information it provides can be useful to ensure that industrial companies stay within their target air pollutants and the data has to be strong enough to stand up in court if industry attempts to contradict findings, explained Watson.

The nearest monitoring site to this one is in Smithers.

The installation follows on the release of a provincial study earlier this year indicating large scale industrial development, including liquefied natural gas plants, can take place in Kitimat without an undue impact on air quality in the region.