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EPA Victoria monitors air quality at a number of locations around the state. These monitors provide EPA and the Victorian community with information on the concentration of pollutants in the air.
EPA uses different types of air monitors for different purposes:
- General condition monitors provide EPA with information on general air quality and pollution happening over a large area.
- Local condition monitors tell us about local air quality and pollution issues.
- Incident air monitors are set up to respond to major pollution events.
Read about EPA’s air monitoring network.
Monitoring Victoria’s ambient air quality
EPA’s ambient air quality network is made up of general condition monitors.
General condition monitors are strategically placed around the state and form the foundation of EPA’s monitoring network. Some monitors are fixed and some are mobile. EPA has been monitoring ambient air quality at some locations, such as Alphington, Footscray and Traralgon, for more than 30 years.
EPA uses the air quality data collected at these stations to report annually on Victoria’s ambient air quality. This is done by assessing the data against the national air quality standards, known as the Ambient Air Quality National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM). These standards are incorporated into the State Environment Protection Policy (SEPP – Ambient Air Quality).
Monitoring local air quality
EPA has a limited number of local condition monitors placed in communities where there is a specific pollution concern. Currently there is a local condition monitor in Brooklyn, which is part of EPA’s campaign to improve air quality in the Brooklyn Industrial Precinct. EPA operates local condition monitors for varying periods of time, depending on the specific pollution concern.
Monitoring during major pollution events
EPA can deploy incident air monitoring equipment when requested by emergency services. The portable equipment allows us to provide localised air quality readings to the incident controller.
The data collected by the incident air monitors provides useful information about the impacts of a pollution event and is used to make decisions about what EPA and other agencies do next. Data collected by some incident air monitors is also shown on EPA AirWatch.
The deployment of incident air monitors complements other predictive tools that emergency services use to provide information and advice to the community on air quality impacts during major pollution events.
Why does it take a while for data to show on EPA AirWatch during an incident?
EPA’s air monitoring network is made up of a range of air quality monitors and communication infrastructure. During an air pollution incident, we may deploy incident air monitors to collect air quality data about that specific issue. EPA monitoring equipment will be on site, recording air quality data and reporting it to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) within 24 hours of being requested to attend the incident as required. DHHS may use the data for its decision-making purposes.
From the time EPA begins recording data, it will take up to 2.5 hours for the first data to appear publicly on the EPA AirWatch website, then updates occur hourly. This is due to:
- data averaging; the monitors are programmed to calculate the recorded data’s average each hour – this is so the data can be compared with relevant air quality standards. We need at least 45 minutes of data to be able to calculate a one-hour average
- refreshing the map; EPA AirWatch updates at 35 minutes past the hour. This 35-minute time lag is necessary to ensure our monitoring instruments have time to send their readings through the network and for EPA to check the instruments are working correctly
Reporting air quality information
EPA is committed to its role of monitoring and reporting of air quality data to the Victorian community.
We do this in several ways:
People unable to access our website are encouraged to call EPA’s call centre 24/7 on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) for the latest EPA data on air quality.
EPA’s role in planned burns
Planned burning involves lighting fires under carefully managed conditions to reduce the risk of bushfire. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Parks Victoria undertake planned burning across Victoria, particularly on public land such as forests.
DELWP usually monitors smoke impacts during planned burns and can request that EPA deploy its incident response air monitoring equipment. EPA can also provide information on air quality forecasting when requested.
What does EPA do when an air monitor shows a high reading for airborne particles?
If an air monitor shows a high reading, EPA will investigate to understand what could be causing the reading.
We investigate by doing some or all of the following things:
- comparing the data from the monitors with other air monitors in the area
- mobilising EPA staff to observe air quality in the area or examine the air monitors
- consulting with other government agencies, such as the Country Fire Authority (CFA) or Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), that may have additional information.
If there’s an issue with poor air quality, EPA will:
If there’s a problem with the monitor
- inform the community and relevant government agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services; update the information in EPA’s online air quality bulletins; send email and SMS notifications to our subscribers; and inform media outlets
- investigate, if necessary, the extent and cause of the air quality issue, and determine whether it’s happened before and whether communities will be impacted
- do more monitoring to complement the air monitor if required.
, EPA will put up a notice on our website explaining the situation, and temporarily remove the affected data from the website.