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Live air quality sensors installed across the city

Improving air quality in Armidale city just got serious with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) installing a dedicated air quality sensor with hourly data available online and Council installing a network of Purple Air sensors across the city which also delivers real-time data.

Armidale city has been battling air quality, particularly in the winter months for many years due to our cold winters and the use of wood fired heaters to keep warm. The city’s geographical location in a valley and low winds also poses an issue where wood smoke can get trapped over the city.

Armidale Regional Council Mayor Cr Simon Murray said the air quality data received from the sensors so far has revealed some worrying statistics that we need to take seriously.

“I’ve been looking at the data from the OEH sensor which has already revealed so far this winter poor and very poor air quality on a number of occasions,” said Cr Murray.

In the last 48 hours the Air Quality Index on the OEH monitoring site for Armidale reached 243  (hazardous) at 1am in the morning on Tuesday 10 July.  It remained at very poor and poor for the rest of the morning. These results were also replicated on the Purple Air Monitoring site.

“Air quality in Armidale city this morning was very poor,” said Cr Murray. “The city woke to the smell of wood smoke that had been trapped over the city for the whole night. These are the conditions that can pose serious health risks for the community.”

“The good news is that by properly operating your wood heater you can reduce excessive wood smoke leaving your chimney by up to 90 percent.”

Council is encouraging the community to take advantage of the live monitoring data that is now easily accessible online. To view the OEH Air Quality Index data updated hourly for Armidale and the rest of the state go to www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/aqitable.htm or you can view the live data from the Purple Air Sensors Council has installed across the city at www.purpleair.com click on the map and search for Armidale.

Some simple steps to reduce wood smoke pollution are:

  1. Don’t let your heater smoulder overnight or during the day – keep enough air in the fire to maintain a flame.
  2. Burn only dry, aged hardwood in your wood heater. Unseasoned wood has lots of moisture, which causes a fire to smoke.
  3. Store your wood under cover in a dry, ventilated area. Freshly cut wood needs to be stored for at least eight to twelve months.
  4. Never burn rubbish, driftwood or painted or treated wood. These are sure to pollute the air and can produce poisonous gases.
  5. When lighting a cold heater, use plenty of dry kindling to establish a good fire quickly.
  6. Use several small logs rather than one large log and stack them loosely in your heater, so air can circulate around them. Don’t cram the firebox full.
  7. Keep the flame lively and bright. Your fire should only smoke when you first light it and when you add extra fuel. Open the air controls fully for 5 minutes before and 15 to 20 minutes after reloading the heater.
  8. Check your chimney regularly to see how well your fire is burning. If there is smoke coming from the chimney, increase the air supply to your fire.
  9. Have the chimney cleaned every year to prevent build-up.

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