WHY IS AIR QUALITY IMPORTANT?
Air quality is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the world’s largest single environmental health risk. It is estimated that over 90% of the world’s population is living in places where the WHO air quality guidelines levels are not met. The significance of this environmental issue for our society is recognised in European environmental Directives that require Member States to assess air quality regularly, to report it to the public and the Commission and to implement measures to deliver acceptable levels. Assessing and managing air quality impacts is an essential component of the planning and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process for new development.
Ricardo Energy & Environment have been proudly supporting the Gibraltar Environmental Agency and HM Government of Gibraltar for over a decade as they respond to the air quality challenge. We work closely with both the Environmental Agency and the Government’s Department for Environment and Climate Change (DoECC) to: understand the air pollution climate, both locally and regionally; help the Government determine potential policies that deliver genuine air quality improvements for the population (laid out within the Gibraltar Environmental Action and Management Plan and the Gibraltar Air Quality Action Plan ); help the Environmental Agency to implement the Government’s air quality measuresRicardo has expertise across the environmental sector through our large team of scientists and engineers, all specialists in fields from air quality, energy, climate change, waste, and water quality. As well as specialising in producing air quality evidence in support of policy development and public health initiatives, we use air quality data and state of-the-art assessment techniques to ensure that major development projects deliver a high standard of air quality.
GIBRALTAR AIR QUALITY MONITORING NETWORK
One of Ricardo’s first tasks was to help the Environmental Agency to establish a high quality air quality monitoring network that met the exacting requirements of European legislation at the same time as providing essential information for scientific understanding and evidence base. The network has been in operation since 2005 and has been expanded over time to include additional automatic monitoring (Witham’s Road in 2008), chloride and sodium measurements (sea salt particles), heavy metals and meteorology.
Gibraltar Environmental Agency undertake the critical responsibilities of the Local Site Operator, performing site calibrations, maintenance and being on-call in case of equipment failure. This ensures that the network continues to provide the highest quality measurements possible.
1 EAMP https://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/new/sites/default/fil... Action_&_Management_Plan_2013.pdf
2 AQ Plan https://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/new/sites/default/fil... Air%20Quality%20Action%20Plan.pdf
In addition to collecting the data, we also undertake data ‘ratification’ - the process of applying stringent data governance and QA/QC procedures. These procedures are designed to meet regulatory obligations under the INSPIRE Directive (2007/2/EC), Data Quality Objectives specified under the Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC) and the requirements of the Commission Implementing Decision known as the IPR (2011/850/EU). Through our involvement in European expert working groups (such as CEN), we ensure that the QAQC procedures we apply always represent the current best practice.
These processes are applied at regular intervals throughout the year in accordance with scheduled instrument calibrations that informs the QAQC, and a final data set for the year is ratified annually around May. The data are stored in a database which currently contain 4 million measurements and almost a million calculated statistics. This database underpins the public information services provided for the Gibraltar Environmental Agency.
We have designed and maintain the Gibraltar Air Quality website (http://www.gibraltarairquality.gi/) for the Environmental Agency, an important tool in communicating to the public current levels of pollution in the territory and advising on health impacts and remedial action, particularly for highly sensitive cohorts such as the young, elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
The website provides hourly, near real-time information from the three automatic air quality monitoring stations in the network and acts as a repository for historical automatic and non-automatic monitoring data, analysis and relevant reports. The website also provides a mechanism for the Environmental Agency to communicate immediate newsflash messages to the public about air pollution episodes.
Ricardo’s services extend beyond making and managing measurements to fundamentally understanding the real world data we gather and turning it into robust, policy-relevant information that can underpin defensible Government policy. Our analytical tools, complex dispersion models and expertise help to identify and characterise different sources, quantify their magnitude and simulate the impact of policy action on ambient concentrations. Through these tools we provide: understanding of temporal variation to determine how concentrations vary throughout the day, week, season according to changes in the activity of the source. spatial insight to determine where contributions are coming from – for example, within Gibraltar; beyond the Frontier in Spain; long range transboundary from Africa or Europe and natural sources such as sea salt from the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.Both temporal and spatial knowledge is key to accurately apportioning measured concentrations to the correct sources and focuses action and resources on those that will deliver the most effective and cost efficient results.
ANNUAL AIR QUALITY WORKSHOP
Each summer, we visit Gibraltar for dedicated presentations and workshops to the Environmental Agency, the Government’s Department of Environment and Climate Change and other relevant institutions (for example, GibElec, Port Authority, Highways Department). This serves as a forum to present the current situation in the context of the most recent measurements and to discuss current and future action. Past visits have also provided an opportunity to proactively engage with other stakeholders like Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) and the Environmental Safety Group (ESG).
REPORTING TO THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
The final role we play for Gibraltar is to prepare HM Government of Gibraltar’s annual reporting and compliance statement to the Commission. This is provided each September once approval from the Minister for the Environment is received. As required, we also provide reporting of Air Quality Plans to the Commission which declares the Government action being taken to control pollution and evidences the reductions that Government policies are anticipated to deliver.