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New Data Manager Brings Experience & Passion

WCAS welcomes Dr. Kevin McCullum as its newest Data Manager.

Kevin holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Alberta, with a specialty in environmental monitoring. He has worked much of his career in the environmental monitoring field and has worked with air zones throughout western Canada, focusing on air quality data analysis and interpretation, monitoring instrumentation, as well as dispersion and transport modeling.

Kevin also works closely with universities both with research and teaching several courses in engineering over the years. Kevin is currently collaborating with two researchers at the University of Alberta on separate projects related to air quality and the relationship with trees and lichens.

Kevin has a passion for environmental monitoring partnerships and monitoring research spanning the gambit from citizen science to satellite air quality feeds. He also works as a senior engineer at Matrix Solutions Inc. where he works with other Airsheds including ACA and PAZA.
WCAS Air Monitoring Station in Breton

Member Profile - Brazeau County

A community located in west central Alberta, Brazeau County is well known for its bountiful wilderness and wildlife, and the recreation opportunities that come from these. It includes the residents of the Town of Drayton Valley and the Village of Breton. 

Brazeau County is a champion of innovative initiatives that provide environmental solutions such as a first-of-its-kind cold weather, sustainable floating wetlands project which uses plants to treat wastewater naturally and prolong the lifespan of lagoons. 

In 2019, Brazeau County and WCAS celebrated the opening of the Drayton Valley air quality monitoring station. The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) station measures air quality and provides hourly readings and related health messages which can be found on the Brazeau County website and through the free AQHI mobile app. 

“Air quality is an important issue and Brazeau County is pleased to collaborate with WCAS to ensure good air quality for the citizens of west central Alberta,” says Bart Guyon, Brazeau County Reeve.

WCAS is fortunate to have Brazeau County Councillor Heidi Swan as a member of its Board of Directors.
Brenda Barber, Gary Redmond and Heidi Swan at a Brazeau County community event.

Data with Dr. Kev

In the month of August 2020, WCAS collected air quality and meteorological data at 12 continuous air monitoring stations across 61,850 km².

The total monitoring consisted of 115 parameters (NO₂/NO/NOX, O₃, PM₂․₅, SO₂, H₂S, TRS, THC, CO, temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction), collected in one minute increments. This amount of data equates to 5,140,500 readings collected in a single month (Aug 2020).

If we pick a single station such as Carrot Creek that has been collecting data since the last century (1998 at least) we have collected over 105 million - one minute readings. We can now take all of this data collected over many months and many years to start and identify interesting profiles of air quality to answer a question – has air quality improved over time?

It is often easier to show in pictures what the air quality is doing over time, and at Carrot Creek we pick one parameter NO₂ (nitrogen dioxide) to see what has happened over the monitoring life. Below (top chart) we split the data into three time frames before the year 2000 (which only includes 1998 to 2000) then from the year 2001 to 2010 and finally the years after 2010.

We see two events in this chart; one is the pattern of combustion emissions of NO₂ remain higher in winter months than summer months and second is that over time we are seeing a slight reduction in NO₂ being monitored. To confirm if this is happening we look at a long term trend of the data to see if we are truly seeing a reduction over time and the chart below (bottom chart) does confirm a slight reduction over time showing an estimated 1.9% per year reduction of NO₂ being recorded.

Stay tuned for more interesting fun with data!

Behind the Scenes - Equipment Management

Equipment is essential to air monitoring stations. By ensuring we have suitable equipment within our network we minimize the risk of analyzer failure and extended downtime.

At WCAS, we seek the newest and most reliable equipment available. We have developed a replacement schedule to ensure analyzers are replaced prior to any catastrophic failures. Recently we replaced our old TEOM particulate analyzers because the equipment was no longer supported by the manufacturer and poised a risk to our monitoring network.

WCAS has developed an inventory system for analyzer spare parts based on components that are known to fail and on manufacturer guidelines. This provides a safeguard from prolonged periods of downtime. We have a minimal number of spare analyzers available, but through good equipment management and data trend analysis, we ensure that equipment is operational in stations where and when it is needed.

Moving our equipment throughout our network allows WCAS to enhance our monitoring efforts in the areas of greatest need. Over the last few years we have added Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) parameters to some of our stations and going forward we would like to continue adding AQHI parameters to expand our coverage in the communities we serve.

Reliable equipment and carefully planned equipment management allows us to continuously improve our stations and helps us ensure good quality air in our region.
Air Monitoring Analyzers in Drayton Valley
Learn More About WCAS
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West Central Airshed Society · 8737 53 Avenue NW · Edmonton, AB T6E 5E9 · Canada

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