Invercargill and Gore are now both in breach of the Government’s National Environment Standards for Air Quality (NES), despite being only two months into the winter monitoring period.
The standards set at an average daily limit of 50 micrograms/m3 for the pollutant PM10 and allow for one exceedance per year. The Government has set targets of a maximum of three exceedances for Invercargill and a maximum of one exceedance for Gore by 1 September 2016.
Invercargill recorded its sixth exceedance on Friday 1 July of 56 micrograms/m3, while Gore registered its third on Thursday 30 June, recording 55 micrograms/m3. Friday also saw Winton record its first exceedance since 2008, with 53 micrograms/m3. While Winton is not a gazetted airshed, Environment Southland has been monitoring air quality there periodically since 2006.
Environment Southland air quality scientist Owen West said the results were disappointing, especially with so much of the winter period ahead but the recent still and calm weather conditions were likely contributing factors.
“Winter temperatures overall have been warmer, but we have had some very still, cold days when people have been cranking up their fires. On those days, the smoke layer in the air is quite obvious when you are outside.”
Warm, healthy homes and good air quality should go hand in hand, with efficient burning of dry wood the best way to get the most heat from your burner while, also reducing the smoke coming from the chimney.
“If people take the time to go outside and check how much smoke is coming out of their chimney, it might help them learn how they can optimise their fire to burn more efficiently. Lots of smoke is a sign of an inefficient fire and wasted money.”
Environment Southland monitors air quality and reports on the results during winter. The built up urban areas of Invercargill City and the Gore township are gazetted airsheds because they regularly exceed the national standards during winter.
The Proposed Regional Air Plan decisions released last year include rules to help improve air quality. Open fires will be prohibited in the Invercargill and Gore airsheds after 1 January 2017 and non compliant burners will be phased out between 2019 and 2034. Although Winton is not affected by the phase outs, the Southland District Council is processing building consents for compliant wood burners at no charge until 31 December 2017 to encourage residents to change to cleaner forms of heating.