Wed, Jul 05, 2017 - Page 4 News List

EPA to install pollution detectors

By Yang Mien-chieh and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) on Monday said that 10,200 miniature air pollution detectors are to be installed nationwide in the next four years, with the first batch of 500 units to be installed in central Taiwan next year.

The project is to be carried out over the next four years at an estimated cost of between NT$200 million and NT$300 million (US$6.6 million and US$9.8 million), EPA officials said at a news conference in Taipei.

The mini-detectors are small enough to be placed on utility poles or traffic lights near restaurants, temples, factories and in residential areas to monitor air quality at a local level, the officials said.

The new technology can potentially provide mobile device users with real-time information about air quality, they said.

The EPA has 205 air pollution monitoring stations that collect data on pollutants — such as PM2.5, ozone and sulfur dioxide — which the agency publishes on a public Web site, Environmental Monitoring and Information Management Department Director-General Chang Shuenn-chin (張順欽) said.

PM2.5 refers to particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less.

A traditional monitoring station uses filters to catch airborne particles then weighs them to estimate the average density of pollution in the area, he said.

However, the stations cannot gauge the level of air pollution in smaller areas and the bulk of their equipment — about half the size of a living room each — is a factor that restricts their flexibility, Chang said.

The EPA’s new miniature pollution detectors are designed to be moved when needed and can help the agency analyze air pollution in detail, he said.

By using lasers to measure pollution density, the mini-detectors help the EPA pinpoint pollution sources down to a specific restaurant or factory, Chang said.

A drawback is that the readings are more likely to be misleading because of emissions from nearby sources, he said.

The first 500 detectors are to be fine-tuned for accuracy after their deployment, Chang said.

The deployment is likely to prioritize intersections and industrial districts, before additional units are installed throughout the country for a total of 10,200 units, he said.

The EPA is conceptualizing ways to enable online access to the data generated by the detectors, so that members of the public can keep tabs on air quality using cellphones or smart bracelets, he said.

It will be possible to design apps specifically for the needs of people with asthma, directing them to destinations via routes that avoid pockets of air pollution, Chang said.

“For now, the main purpose of the mini-detectors is not to punish polluters, but to monitor which areas have high pollution,” he said. “Investigation of affected areas by inspectors is still needed to issue fines.”

EPA Deputy Minister Thomas Chang (詹順貴) said the first stage of the deployment is to generate qualitative data for analytical purposes.

Hopefully, Taiwan will be able to domestically design and make the machines, Thomas Chang said.

As the technology matures and the mini-detectors achieve saturation throughout the nation, the EPA might use them for its air pollution emergency response system, as well as making enforcement speedier, he said.

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