The Council has a statutory duty to periodically review and assess the air quality in its area. This involves comparing the measured or predicted pollutant levels against National Air Quality Standards and Objectives.
Objectives have been set for the following pollutants;
Ground Level Ozone (O3); Benzene; 1, 3 Butadiene; Lead; Carbon Monoxide (CO); Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2); Sulphur Dioxide (SO2); Particulate Matter less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH).
NB Ozone and PAH remain as national objectives not prescribed in regulation and presently remain outside the scope of Local Air Quality Management
Objectives have been set at levels for which there would be no or extremely low risk to health.
Should the Council identify area(s) where there may be exceed these objectives, then it is required to carry out more detailed assessments. Should they continue to exceed still appear likely the Council has to designate the area(s) as Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA(s)) and develop Action Plans, setting out how the authority intends to improve the air quality in order to achieve the objective levels.
In general the air quality in Central Bedfordshire meets the Air Quality Objective levels set by the Government.
Currently there is one declared Air Quality Management Area currently in force. This is in Dunstable and was declared in January 2005. The pollutant of concern is nitrogen dioxide which principally is due to road traffic. An Air Quality Action Plan is currently being developed in order to identify options to work towards reducing concentrations of nitrogen dioxide to meet the Government's objective level.
There was a second Air Quality Management Area declared in March 2005 in relation to sulphur dioxide emissions from Stewartby Brickworks. The AQMA included the villages of Marston Moretaine and Houghton Conquest and surrounding countryside areas. However, as of February 2008 Stewartby Brickworks ceased production of bricks at this site as a result of not being able to achieve the air quality objectives for sulphur dioxide. This area was therefore revoked as sulphur dioxide levels have reduced dramatically.
Central Bedfordshire Council continues to monitor the air quality in its district, currently it monitors for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2); Particulate Matter (PM10) and Ground Level Ozone (O3).
There are essentially two methods of measuring pollutant concentrations:
1. Diffusion tubes - small plastic tubes that absorb pollutants, which are then sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results obtained are monthly averages and are used to give long term trends in levels of pollutants in an area.
2. Real time analysers - machines that accurately measure levels of pollutants in the air constantly.
Currently Central Bedfordshire uses some 47 passive diffusion tubes to monitor nitrogen dioxide and 4 real time analysers to monitor nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and ground level ozone.
Visit the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Air Quality Network website to view air quality data.
The Herts and Beds Air Quality Monitoring Network was formed in 1999 by all the District/Borough Councils in the two counties and ERG (Kings College London). Luton Airport also joined the Network in 2003.
The Network was formed principally to collate and report air quality monitoring results from across the region. The network's aims are:
- to provide the public with easy and free access to information about the quality of the air that they are breathing;
- to provide regular reports comparing air quality across the region;
- to assist in developing local and national strategies to improve air quality;
- to set up an archive of monitoring results;
- to ensure a consistently high standard of monitoring data across the region.
The equipment used to accurately monitor air pollutants is complex and very sensitive. Consequently, purchase and running costs of each continuous monitoring site are high. By sharing information across the network, the local authorities can create a more comprehensive and detailed picture of pollution levels throughout the two counties.
The Network maintains a joint website where monitoring data and information on air quality can be viewed or downloaded. Visit the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Air Quality Network website to view air quality data.